Driver’s Eye View: Symmons Plains

V8 Supercars driver and analyst Tony D’Alberto takes a close look at the new sprint format, the influence of the soft tyre, and that hopeless feeling when you hit somebody else’s oil…

Driver’s Eye View: Symmons Plains
Will Davison, Tekno Autosports Holden
Start action: Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden leads
Start action: Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden and Mark Winterbottom, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford
Fabian Coulthard, Team Penske Ford and Mark Winterbottom, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford
Track action
Dunlop tyres
Mark Winterbottom, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford
Mark Winterbottom, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford
Dunlop tyres
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden

Saturday’s race in Tasmania was an absolute cracker.

Having a little bit of strategy come into play for the Saturday on a sprint weekend spiced things up, particularly with a little bit of tyre degradation from that softer compound. We saw some guys pit late, Tim Slade and Jason Bright being the obvious examples, and get a result out of it.

It’s good to see risks being rewarded. Those Brad Jones Racing cars didn’t have the pace to be at the front in qualifying, but in the race they could apply some clever strategy and come through the field.

What the format does is make the Saturday race interesting from the start to the finish; there’s no lull in the middle where nothing is happening. You were wondering what would happen next throughout the whole race.

The good thing is that there are different, viable strategy options. We saw Jamie Whincup pit early and jump into the lead. He took a risk too; he knew he wouldn’t have tyres at the end but he wanted track position. And that worked for him – for a while at least.

Going soft makes it easier to go hard

We saw some good on-track battles as well, and I think the soft tyre contributed to that.

When there is more grip available, drivers will have the confidence to shove it down the inside and know they won’t just spear into the door of their rival.

The hard tyre had its go. Let’s press on with the soft tyre. It’s always talked about, but let’s just do it. The only exception should be Bathurst.

These cars are so difficult to stop and manoeuvre. With a little bit more grip available, it makes it more interesting for everybody.

I don’t think it was just the soft tyre that made the racing amazing in Tasmania – the boys were just fired up and it made for great racing – but I do think the rubber is a big part of the solution.

One particular battle that caught me eye on Saturday was Cam Waters vs. Mark Winterbottom. I think Frosty was holding Cam up, and Cam was very kind to Frosty – which is to be expected. They are team-mates, and you would imagine that Cam, as a rookie, would lean on Frosty’s experience a lot over a weekend. So he can’t afford to have that relationship break down.

If he had been up against someone else, I’m sure Cam would have got the move done earlier… as he admitted in his own column on here earlier today.

One thing on Cam: I’ve said on here before that rookies can easily get overwhelmed by the more experienced guys in the field, so it’s good to see that he doesn’t mind rubbing panels. We saw it last year at Pukekohe as well, when he stood in for Chaz Mostert.

He’s showing that he’s a bit of a tough nut, and that will stop him getting picked on. There are some wise heads out there – the likes of Garth Tander and James Courtney, guys who come back with bent cars every time because they’re not afraid to throw some muscle about. But Cam is asserting himself well.

That hopeless feeling…

I felt sorry for Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup when they hit the oil on Sunday afternoon. It was great to see Will Davison get the win, and he deserved it, but I did feel for Shane particularly.

He’d been braking at the same point lap after lap after lap, and suddenly, without warning, he had no control. You’re just a passenger when that happens. You just can’t pull the car up.

When the guys get to the hairpin, they’re on the limit already. You could see from the on-board that Shane had no chance pulling it up. And if you look at the names that were caught out – van Gisbergen, Whincup, Winterbottom – that says it all. These are the best guys in the field.

Shane is kicking himself, but I don’t think there was anything he could do. On that corner in particular, the ideal line is very high on the corner, so you can’t even run a little bit wide if you lose grip. You’re already on the edge.

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