Rejuvenated racer Tim Slade will this week make his first visit back to Winton since his breakthrough double victory for a test with Brad Jones Racing unsure what the objective of the day will be.
BJR are scheduled to test today, with Slade being joined by Jason Bright and Tim Blanchard, as well as Erebus new recruit Shae Davies (a rookie day) and Prodrive's Dunlop Series cars steered by Jack Le Brocq and Garry Jacobson.
Slade’s pretty sure he and the team have got Winton and its new high-grip surface dialled after his domination of the Woodstock Winton SuperSprint in May in the Freightliner Racing Holden Commodore VF.
“It’s a tough one,” Slade admitted to supercars.com. “We had the race meeting there and with the car as fast as what it was it’s hard to test stuff.
“One particular trait that we struggle with is tracks with not as much grip. You can’t really test for that on a track with grip because that trait doesn’t really exist.
“There is nothing really massive that personally I want to get through but I am sure the engineers will come up with a bit of stuff.”
Slade, who moved to the Albury team this year, admitted there were still issues for him in the BJR Commodore which he described as “general mechanical items” he would like addressed during the test.
“They don’t really affect lap time so much but we can get a few things working a lot better than what they are,” Slade confirmed.
“So we will be trying to get on top of a few things like that.”
The departure of star driver Fabian Coulthard and his engineer Phil Keed last summer prompted another reshaping of the engineering crew. The team has also expanded its capabilities with the appointment of the US consultancy Pratt & Miller and the installation of a new chassis dyno at the workshop.
All this effort has been conducted in tandem with a change in philosophy about how the team’s Commodores are engineered.
Slade confirmed this change in thought process was applied in the most recent Virgin Australia Supercars Championship event, the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint at Queensland raceway, a circuit where BJR has traditionally struggled.
“We did a lot of preparation and homework and a different philosophy set-up wise,” Slade explained. “I think it was the first time we have got into a race meeting like that this year.
“There was no real hardware stuff. We just had a different philosophy on set-up at Queensland Raceway.
“It could potentially help us on tracks that BJR traditionally struggle at like a Sandown or a Gold Coast. But you never know until you get there.”
Since winning at Winton Slade has qualified in the top 10 five times out of six and finished in top 10 three times – missing out in Townsville after being hit on the opening lap in both 200km races – including going 6-7 at QR. The Sunday result could have been even better if not for a pit stop issue.
“It was satisfying for all of us that we got result from it (the philosophy change),” Slade said. “That was pleasing.”
Slade, who currently sits eighth in the drivers’ championship, has also been pleased with BJR’s ability to display continued strong top 10 form since his Winton wins, rather than subsiding in to the pack.
“Before Winton there were lots of positives, but not necessarily the consistency. But now we are all working together a bit better and we all understand each other and the car that little bit better.
“So we are able to be a little more consistent.”
Unsurprisingly Slade admitted he had been frustrated about the unexpected gap in the calendar created by the cancellation of the Kuala Lumpur event and is already excited about the potential pace the team will unearth for the Red Rooster Sydney Motorsport Park.
BJR scored three podiums at SMSP in 2015 and one in 2014, while Slade’s luck has been woeful there in the recent past, including missing the Sunday race altogether in 2014 because of a wrecked car.
“I have never had a lot of luck there,” Slade conceded. “But I have had tracks like that where I have gone back with the BJR car this year and we have had strong results.
“I am sure with the right thing beneath me that there would be no reason why we couldn’t be getting good results. I am looking forward to it.”