HRT takes stock of Hidden Valley changes
Holden Racing Team boss Adrian Burgess says a full debrief of Hidden Valley must be undertaken before a firm decision is made on its engineering partnerships for Townsville.
The team made a double-change ahead of the trip to Darwin as part of a concerted bid to turn around the squad’s poor form, particularly in qualifying.
Guided by Rob Starr and Alex Somerset respectively at Hidden Valley, drivers James Courtney and Garth Tander continued to struggle, managing no better than 17th on the grid for either race.
A significant set-up change to Courtney’s car prior to Sunday’s race gave a glimmer of hope, with the #22 entry holding fifth after benefitting greatly from the opening lap carnage and pitlane chaos.
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Although the engineering combinations look likely to stay for Townsville, Burgess was not prepared to confirm the plan until a full analysis takes place.
“When we get back to the workshop we’ll have a look at everything,” Burgess told Speedcafe.com.
“We tried a few things differently this weekend, personnel being one of them.
“We did go quite a different way with how we looked at the car and we knew we’d struggle in qualifying because we need time to optimise it.
“Hopefully we’re starting to get the driver confidence back, which is part of the lap time that we’re missing.
“It’s not all in the chassis. The driver has got to have confidence in the car to get the lap time.”
The lack of confidence is said to revolve around mid-corner throttle application, with the drivers struggling to get a consistent feel of how much drive traction is available.
The team has experimented greatly with its suspension geometry this season, notably introducing a new front upright following the Clipsal 500.
Tuning and driving around the twin-spring dampers meanwhile remains a delicate art, with some teams switching back and forth to the linear springs between sessions.
“It’s our issue every track,” said Burgess of mid-corner drive traction.
“We’ve thrown the kitchen sink at it and we hadn’t been able to find what unlocks it.
“As James got out of the car (after Race 13) his feedback was that it hasn’t fixed it 100 percent but it’s moved the inherent issue further around the corner and it’s less of an issue than it was.
“But nothing is going to turn around overnight. There’s no silver bullets in this business, just hard work.”
Courtney affirmed to Speedcafe.com after Race 13 that the issue is far from sorted and is most damaging in qualifying.
“It’s definitely still the weakness that we’ve got even after that last race,” he said.
“The other guys are able to get that little bit of a jump on us and in qualifying when you want that little bit extra from the car we can’t seem to get it.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get to a competitive spot. The other guys in front still drove away from us (after the last restart) and have way more speed than what we have.”
Courtney meanwhile says he enjoyed reuniting with Starr, who had worked on the #22 entry alongside erstwhile race engineer Alistair McVean prior to being moved onto Walkinshaw’s new Porsche GT3 program this year.
“It was like slipping on an old pair of shoes with ‘Roberto’ on the radio which was good,” Courtney said.
“He knew exactly what I wanted, there was no transition period learning each other.”
Tander, who was just 14th in Race 13, dismissed his poor weekend as “part of the game” and says he’ll be happy to continue with Somerset if it is deemed best for the team.
“It’s not an individual thing,” Tander told Speedcafe.com of the decision to put Somerset, who is the squad’s technical director, onto his car.
“If that’s the way Adrian wants to go we’ll talk about it after the weekend.”
Despite the poor results, Tander added that the morale inside the team remains strong ahead of Townsville, where the factory Holdens have traditionally performed strongly.
“Everyone is hurting because we’re not winning races and we’re not where we want to be,” he said.
“But there’s a real determination to get there that is as strong as ever.”
Courtney and Tander are 10th and 11th in the standings respectively after Hidden Valley, with the former 366 adrift of leader Jamie Whincup.