Heading into the Winton round of the Dunlop V8 Supercar Series, Image Racing’s Taz Douglas admitted that to be any kind of title threat he’d need to qualify on the front two rows.
“Once you’re back in the pack, you’re no chance to make it to the front, especially around a circuit like Winton which provides very few overtaking opportunities,” he explained. “Once you’re at or near the front, the rest plays out for itself..” or at least it should.
Quick in practice, the ex-Shane Van Gisbergen ARVO Falcon was quick in the opening group of qualifying, in fact so quick that he held the top spot at the end of the session. With the second group holding the points leaders, Douglas was dropped back from the front row, but retained a second row start for Saturday’s opening 12-lapper.
“I haven’t had a single drama getting off the line in this car, but in race one I held 50 percent throttle and broke into wheelspin,” he admitted. “I held the line down into turn one, but knew that there’d be guys firing up the inside, and sure enough, I got served in the rear wheel.”
From behind him New Zealand’s Chris Pither got a strong start, but he was squeezed into Douglas after diving deep into the turn three wide – with Cameron Waters – turning Douglas around and into the path of the oncoming field.
“I knew we were in for trouble, so I just held on and prayed. We copped a few hits, but whilst the car was a bit average from there, I managed to turn it around and keep going.
“From that point on it was hard work, but I managed to work my way from last to 20th over the closing laps, but when you’re stuck in the pack like that, it’s bedlam.”
Post-race inspections revealed that damage was predominantly superficial, although bodywork had been forced onto the rear tyres all but destroying two of their allocated batch ahead of the two final races.
“That caused us issues in the final race, but all up, the damage was fairly light all things considered. Look, I have to take some ownership for what happened, because I was slow away, but I held my line on the outside into turn one. Pither went in too deep, but I would say he was helped by Waters. It wasn’t intentional by either of them, but you’re not going to fit three or four cars into turn one at Winton, so something had to give.”
Despite giving the car less throttle off the start of Sunday morning’s second race, Douglas quickly found himself going backwards again heading down to turn one.
“I used 40 percent throttle this time, which was less than at previous rounds, and more wheelspin. Again I was stuck in amongst the tail-enders, which isn’t where you want to be. It’s different in the main game, because that whole field is capable of winning, but the guys at the back of the Dunlop Series field can be as much as ten seconds a lap slower than the front guys, and when overtaking is difficult, you lose so much time to the leaders and it becomes harder to make up positions.”
Fifteenth for race two, led to an 18th placed start for the final race, the ARVO Falcon circulating with well worn tyres to grab 15th again at the flag.
“Sunday was crazy,” he admitted post-race. “All the drivers – both Dunlop Series and the main game – complained about grip. It was like driving on ice. Understeer into snap oversteer, and it didn’t matter what you did with setup, you just couldn’t find a perfect balance, so you really just had to hang on.”
Despite the frustrating end result, Douglas was reflective on what started as a fantastic weekend, but ended with more frustration.
“Funnily enough, I’m not disappointed because we have pace, and that’s usually the hardest thing to find.
“It’s only a matter of time before something DOESN’T go wrong.. and we’ll show just how quick we are, with any luck that will come at Bathurst.”
Whilst the Image Racing team will return the ARVO Racing Falcon to its pristine best ahead of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in October, Douglas has a busy month ahead of him with his first event as part of the Norton 360 Nissan team at the forthcoming Wilson Security Sandown 500.
“It’s the right time to be a part of the Nissan team,” he agreed, in reference to enduro team-mate James Moffat’s maiden race win for the team at Winton.
“We knew they’d be quick there, so when they started off the front for race one, both Dan Gaunt (Michael Caruso’s enduro partner) and I donned our Norton 360 gear to head down to the pits whilst the race was on for a show of force. They did a great job, and it showed how far they’ve come.
“We have a ride day with the team in the next couple of weeks, and then it’s on to Sandown and Bathurst where hopefully we’ll see success in the Falcon, and score a strong result for the Nissan team.”
The Image Racing/ARVO team will now prepare for the biggest V8 Supercar event of the year, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 scheduled for 10-13 October.