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Drivers brace for wet weather challenge of new Puke surface

Daniel Herrero

Friday 13th September, 2019 - 6:00pm

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Lee Holdsworth during the wet-dry opening practice session

The resurfaced sections of Pukekohe Park Raceway will present a major challenge to Supercars drivers if forecast rain does come to pass at this weekend’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint.

Part of the high-speed circuit’s front ‘straight’ and the run from Turn 1 to Turn 4 was resurfaced earlier this year, after the back straight was relaid prior to the corresponding Virgin Australia Supercars Championship event of 2017.

Qualifying for the Saturday race was abandoned on that occasion after a heavy downpour left standing water on the new tarmac which caused cars to aquaplane.

Supercars drivers got a taste of what a fully wet session might be like when light rain fell on two occasions during Practice 1 today and, with showers forecast for Pukekohe tomorrow and the chance of more rain on Sunday, predict that the conditions will make for a serious challenge.

“We didn’t get much of a practice today, we only really got one practice session, so this new surface I think will be a challenge in the wet,” said Friday pace-setter Lee Holdsworth.

“The water obviously sits on top of a good surface, so I think we’ll see a lot of aquaplaning. We’ve just got to keep on our toes.

“It was surprising actually how quickly the track dried out after those sprinkles today. It was quite greasy when it was spitting but it dried out after a few laps of driving.

“It’s going to be a challenging weekend.”

Shane van Gisbergen refuted suggestions that rainfall would give him an advantage, and echoed Holdsworth’s sentiments.

“It’s a completely different track, and it’s all unknown now; every part of the track’s different from when I grew up here racing, so definitely, as Lee touched on, the way the surface is now it’s going to be interesting,” said the New Zealander.

“When the back straight was done two years ago, we couldn’t even drive on it, so it will be interesting to see.

“Hopefully it’s not too wet because it’ll be pretty slippery out there for everyone, but we’ve got to try and adapt to it and make the best of it.”

Despite the concerns over rain, both were pleased with state of the new surface on the whole, with van Gisbergen noting that the challenge of the bumpy run through Turn 1 remains.

“They’ve done a good job with the resurface as they wanted to keep some of the character so it’s still bucking and bouncing there which is awesome, you keep that track character,” he explained.

“Same in the last sector, it’s awesome. It really needed a reseal at Turn 4 and it’s really fast through there now and you can get a good run onto the straight. It’s pretty cool, fast times and the cars are pretty cool to drive on the hard tyre.”

Holdsworth said that the surface, as well as aerodynamic tweaks to the ZB Commodore, was a major factor in him, and nine others, breaking the three-year-old practice record in Practice 2.

“Obviously (it was a) super quick track today, the new surface was just mega to drive on and you just kept on pushing harder and harder,” said the Tickford Mustang driver.

“I mean, look at the times, they’re just blitzing last year’s times and obviously the Holdens have got what they wanted with the aero.”

Practice 3 starts tomorrow at 1120 local time/0920 AEST.

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