Todd Hazelwood is hopeful he can make a comeback in Townsville after his team worked tirelessly to solve a mystery issue with his Holden ZB Commodore.
The Brad Jones Racing driver was a standout at the resumption in play in the two Sydney SuperSprint events earlier this year, claiming his first Supercars podium finish in the latter.
However, his strong run of form was undone at the Darwin Triple Crown when he was taken out in a Lap 1 crash involving team-mate Nick Percat and Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver Shane van Gisbergen.
Since then, Hazelwood has had finishes of 18th, 20th, and 20th again in the Darwin Triple Crown followed by 16th, 15th, and 15th again in the Darwin SuperSprint.
Having suffered straight-line speed issues, the team sought to rectify that by completing an engine change. However, that proved ineffective and left the team scratching its head.
“We tried to manage the issue as best as we could after Darwin 1 where we had the hit,” Hazelwood explained.
“We went from being comfortably inside the top 10 all day, just as fast as Nick, if not faster – which is obviously a good comparison to work out where our pace was at – then we were absolutely nowhere the following day.
“We tried to rectify the issue for Darwin 2 but it was quite evident we had something wrong. It’s still really hard to know if we’ve solved all of it.
“Once we felt we may have come on top of the issue we were just so far behind as far as understanding what I needed from the car and the track evolution had changed quite considerably.
“It’s made for a really frustrating couple of rounds, because we know that we’re more than capable of being towards the pointy end of the fields as we showed at Sydney and even at the start of the first Darwin weekend.
“We were strong in practice, we were good in qualifying, so then to go backwards from there and deteriorate was pretty hard. We’ve gone from being 11th in the championship to being 17th overnight.
“It’s tough having two really tough weekends, but we’ve just got to stay positive and keep building and try to ensure we’ve got everything rectified come Townsville.”
Hazelwood said there were “multiple contributing factors” for his lack of pace that all stem from the incident.
In between the last Darwin round and the forthcoming event in Townsville, Hazelwood said plenty of work has gone on to remedy the issue.
The Brut-backed driver said componentry changes have been made that he hopes will allow him to be on the pace straight away.
“There’s been a lot of changes and it’s a huge credit to the crew because they work faultlessly across the whole weekend,” said Hazelwood.
“We were throwing a lot of changes over in the very short space of time that they had. We’ve got limited crew now, we’ve got even shorter turnaround times between sessions.
“When you’ve got an issue you’re trying to rectify; particularly in Darwin, it’s so stinking hot in the garage, they’re sweating and they don’t even have time to have a sip of water.
“Full credit to them because they did an amazing job and dug deep. We tried as best we could all weekend. We fought hard and drove hard in the races to make places.
“We tried to maximise that weekend, but from our standards and my own personal standards it’s nowhere near where we want to be.”
Looking forward, Hazelwood is confident that this weekend’s NTI Townsville SuperSprint will bring better results.
In 2019, Hazelwood qualified third and backed that up with fourth in the Top 10 Shootout.
“I’m a lot more confident now that the car will be good,” he said.
“Townsville, for me, has always been a really strong track for results. I was on the podium here almost every year in Super2.
“We had really strong space here last year so I’ve got no doubt we should be able to spring back. Hopefully that shows over the results this weekend.
“It’s a track that I’ve always enjoyed. Sometimes you can really just get rewarded by hustling the car and pushing even harder.
“We want to be in the 10 consistently, week-in week-out. The team has proven that we’re more than capable of doing that. That’s where we want to be.
“I’ve got full faith in the team that they’ll give me a fast car and we’ll do a cracking job and bounce back.”
The NTI Townsville SuperSprint takes place on August 29-30.