A reoccurrence of the driveline vibration that troubled him at Winton and a continued handling imbalance have impeded V8 Supercars Championship leader Jamie Whincup’s progress in a vital test at Queensland Raceway yesterday.
By the end of the day the vibration issues had been resolved but neither Whincup or his engineer Mark Dutton were happy with the Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore VF’s handling.
It means, admits Dutton, they head to Triple Eight’s 10th anniversary Wilson Security Sandown 500 on September 13-15 with less confidence than normal or they would like.
“Usually when you come to a Sandown test day we are not looking for car speed as we were today,” Dutton told v8supercars.com.au. “That side is a concern.
“There is a lot of work to be done, but I am pretty sure the confidence will be back once we analyse everything and we work out the workload, what we can and can’t do and make a plan.
“So not as comfortable position as other enduros, but that said every enduro you are going in with so much work to do because everyone lifts their game year in and year out.”
Whincup has had some torrid V8 Supercars experiences of late and has won only two of his last 11 starts, a drought by his standards.
He qualified on pole for the 60/60 Super Sprint at the Winton 360 and was leading when a tail-shaft broke. An output shaft vibration traced back to an installation issue slowed him in Sunday qualifying and then he was the innocent victim in a multi-car accident triggered by Fujitsu GRM’s Alex Premat.
The tail-shaft failure was later traced back to a fault in manufacturing which has been corrected.
“We didn’t have any breakages today, we just lost time changing things, checking things,” Dutton explained. “A lot of today was taken up with trying to make sure there weren’t any issues on the car – more than at a normal test day.”
The handling imbalance only impacted Whincup’s car and was not an issue for Craig Lowndes' 888 Commodore, Dutton said.
“If you were at a race meeting and that happened you would just tune around it, but at a test day you have a lot more time on track to see what it’s like compared to the other car.
“There was a lot of data collected today, but we don’t have any answers right now, just more questions.”
The impact of any issues anyone encounters this year are huge because of the incredible closeness of the grid, with 12 different winners (including four first-timers) and nine drivers within 245 points of Whincup at the top of the points table.
Car of the Future is proving a technical challenge and performance leveller as different teams make a tuning breakthrough or suffer an issue as Whincup is currently.
“We are going to be working hard, I can see some big hours coming up. It’s a big job, everyone is up to it, everyone wants to get our car back to where we know it should be and things making a little more sense,” Dutton said.
Despite the issues, much of the day went smoothly, with both 1 and 888 circulating without any offs, endurance co-drivers Paul Dumbrell (Whincup) and Warren Luff (Lowndes) getting out on the track and the crew getting vital endurance preparation done.
Car 888 also tested the updated version of the Albins transaxle, with 1 scheduled to make the transition before Sandown.
“The boys doing the pit stops were fantastic today, the driver changes were good. We are really on top of all that kind of stuff,” Dutton said. “We have stepped up all the physical running of an enduro, so we are really confident of the boys and everyone doing a really good job.
“That is massively important. It plays such a crucial role because so many things are different in an enduro.”
The September 13-15 Wilson Security Sandown 500 is the opening event of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, which also comprises the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and ARMOR ALL Gold Coast 600.