The V8 Supercars launch/ test-day at Eastern Creek on Saturday was a fantastic affair throughout. The whole day had a certain ‘feel good’ element to it and it was great to see so many people in attendance – in fact, many seasoned V8 Supercars observers said it was possibly the biggest V8 Supercar crowd even seen at The Creek.
The middle of the day grid walk was absolutely packed and if anything, the allocated half hour window needed to be extended to ensure everyone made it onto the start-finish straight. A fantastic sea of colour was evident as 1000s of fans – many of which were having their V8 Supercars baptism – lapped up the chance to see the cars up close and personal and meet their racing heroes.
Hats off to all concerned, the day ran smoothly and to all intents and purposes felt just like a normal race weekend, as the stars in their newly coloured cars strutted their stuff on-track for over seven hours.
The ‘feel good’ part of the day was felt by more than the fans on hand and it was hard not to be impressed by Will Davison’s first run in his Trading Post Racing-FPR Falcon. Davison looks fitter than ever this year and every time I walked by the FPR pit area, when he was out of the car; he could be seen laughing and joking with his new team.
Don’t for a minute misinterpret that fact, Will was also diligently working with his engineering group in an effort to understand the nuances of his new mount, but his start to the year could hardly have gone any better … topping the time sheets after the morning session, which unlike that of the afternoon, didn’t include the use of the soft compound Dunlop option tyre.
Team-mates Mark Winterbottom and Paul Dumbrell made it three FPR cars in the top 10 spots in the session Will topped and team boss Tim Edwards was looking pretty damn pleased with things, without getting too carried away of course.
Perhaps though, the best instant summary of Will’s FPR transition came from his father Richard, himself a former champion race driver, when he said to me “it looks like that bloke in car # 6 has remembered how to drive!”
Indeed Richard, I too doubt he ever forgot and with the added fuel of a disappointing 2010 to motivate him, Davison could just be the biggest story of the year. Australian Formula Ford champion, British Formula 3 race-winner and much matured since joining Toll HRT in 2009, you could do worse that keep an eye on his championship odds as the season unfolds.
While Will’s morning performance was the talk of pit lane, a little further down the order and rounding out the top 10 in Practice 1 was David Reynolds. Another former National Formula Ford champion, and one returning to full-time V8 Supercar duty after a year on the sidelines. Make no mistake, this young man’s laid-back personality belies the burning desire that exists within and the supremely talented Reynolds will this year be looking to firmly re-establish himself in the category.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that provide the indication of intent and having watched the out laps of all drivers when the opening session commenced at 9am sharp, it was indeed Reynolds who caught my eye. As the field filtered out in pit garage order only Reynolds lit the tyres up for the eager crown hanging over the fence on the inside of Turn 1, desperate for their first on-track glimpse of the 2011 field.
It wasn’t a wild, tyre-smoking affair, but more of a “yes, I’m back and this is going to be fun from the outset” type statement, as Reynolds number #16 Stratco machine – also in a much brighter shade of red this year – lurched slightly sideways as its driver nailed the throttle pedal just after up-changing into second gear.
It brought a cheer from the crowd and I watched intently as he charged around his opening lap, before quickly arriving back at the high-speed entrance to the first turn having passed both Rick and Todd Kelly Jack Daniels’ machines in the process! As I said, it’s sometimes the small things.
As good as the performances of Will Davo and young Reynolds were – Craig Lowndes stunning P2 time too – the day was well and truly capped off by the on-track return of Jason Richards, who completed a handful of laps in the cars of both Jason Bs – namely, Bright and Bargwanna. Three Jason’s in the one camp and not a dry eye in the BJR house as Richards’ went back to his rightful place behind the wheel of not one, but two Team BOC Commodores.
I don’t know if it was Jason’s want and desire or that of BJR’s team management, but it was clearly no PR stunt and I doubt Jason, or his lovely wife Charlotte, have smiled so widely in recent times.
It was a moving moment on a genuinely good day for the category -–its stars and cars, but those laps by Jase, our inspirational Kiwi mate, were indeed the perfect ‘feel-good’ way to launch the 2011 V8 Supercars Championship.