The silver lining for BJR after Bathurst frustration

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 04/03/2021
  • By James Pavey

Todd Hazelwood has earmarked a return to soft tyre racing as a positive for Brad Jones Racing following a mixed weekend in Bathurst.

Hazelwood scored a top 10 on Saturday, having started 16th, but slumped to 18th in Sunday's Race 2.

It came after the 2017 Super2 champion's Friday running was affected by a power steering issue, which left him with little track time to attack qualifying on Saturday morning.

The team entered the 2021 season with an unchanged driver line-up, with Hazelwood returning alongside Nick Percat, Macauley Jones and Jack Smith.

All four cars suffered separate dramas on the weekend; Hazelwood and Jones both required overnight engine changes, with the team also changing Smith's gearbox.

Percat, who impressed to seventh overall in 2020, was unable to set a lap time in Saturday qualifying amid electrical issues.

The 2011 Bathurst 1000 winner matched Hazelwood's 10th place on Sunday, marking the team's best result of the weekend.

"It wasn't to our standards, and it wasn't the way we wanted to start the year," Hazelwood told Supercars.com.

"We showed over the course of last year that we're more than capable of being in the top 10 and better.

"To only scrape into the top 10 on the Saturday after others' misfortune wasn't what we wanted.

"We're going to put Bathurst behind us, but we're going to learn what we can to ensure we come back a lot stronger at Sandown."

BJR was one of the teams which best maximised the soft tyre racing formats in 2020, with Percat winning two races in Sydney.

Hazelwood recorded a maiden podium, also in Sydney, with the duo recording maiden poles in Townsville.

With the next round at Sandown to see the return of soft tyre racing, Hazelwood believes the format, coupled with the track layout, should see BJR return to form.

"I've very confident heading to Sandown," he said.

"I know it's a cliche to say that you've had one bad round, and you're looking to the next one.

"But for us at BJR, getting back onto the soft tyre is a big thing.

"We've got a proven package on that style of circuit on the soft tyre, that was proven last year at Sydney Motorsport Park and Townsville.

"We've got a good base to work with; we're not 100 per cent on how our cars will react, but I'm looking forward to trying to maximise our weekend at Sandown.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't be in the top 10 and fighting at the front."

Regardless, Hazelwood admitted the Bathurst weekend stung the team, which enjoyed a strong 2020 season.

The 25-year-old explained that BJR opted to pursue a new set-up direction for Sunday, which saw Percat and Jones make key gains.

While the aggressive changes didn't see an improvement on the time sheets for Hazelwood, he did notice a shift in performance.

"We're not going to turn the page and ignore what happened at Bathurst," he said.

"There were significant factors which hampered our results, like my power steering issues on Friday.

"I lost a lot of track time, which you simply can't do at sprint events because of limited track time.

"Going straight into qualifying with limited running was always going to affect our performance.

"I felt that we needed to push into a new direction, so as a group, we elected to pursue a new set-up direction for Sunday.

"While it didn't look amazing on the time sheets, key elements to the car certainly felt better.

"I personally didn't get the fruits of the set-up, but we can certainly take positives from Nick and Macauley's performances."

The Repco Supercars Championship field will return to Victoria for the Penrite Oil Sandown SuperSprint across March 20-21. Tickets are on sale now.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo. Check out the full TV schedule here.

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