Slade’s Sunday gain at Sandown ‘too little, too late’

Tim Slade

Tim Slade says gains made between Saturday and Sunday at the Sandown SuperSprint were “too little, too late” for CoolDrive Racing.

The Blanchard Racing Team pilot had a subdued weekend at Sandown International Motor Raceway, only once finishing inside the top 10.

The team fielded a newly rebuilt Ford Mustang at their home round after Slade’s monumental crash at the season-opening Mount Panorama 500.

It was a promising start to the weekend in the back-up chassis, Slade clocking the third quickest time in Practice 1.

However, he fell to 13th in Practice 2 and slid further down the field to 19th in qualifying after the team went the wrong way with its set-up according to Slade.

The 31-year-old would go on to fight back to 13th in Race 3.

Sunday brought similar results, qualifying 12th and 18th for Race 4 and Race 5, improving to ninth and 17th in each of the 36-lap affairs.

The slump in speed contrasts that of the season-opener where Slade qualified on the front row for Race 1.

Slade described the Sandown weekend as “messy” despite making gains from qualifying to the race in each instance.

“It was just difficult,” Slade told Speedcafe.com.

“First practice we were good and then the second practice session we were a bit all over the shop and we didn’t allow ourselves enough time at the end to get a lap in.

“We were a bit of an unknown going into qualifying, but I guess still had a little bit of confidence from the first practice session.

“We made an adjustment on the car for qualifying and it went the wrong way to what it was supposed to, so then we didn’t actually work that out until [Sunday] morning.

“That kind of hampered qualifying and then the race [on Saturday]. In the race, the car didn’t actually feel too bad, it was just that we were back there from qualifying. That was that.

“It was at least good to find and pinpoint why I guess the car wasn’t really reacting and why things weren’t making sense.

“Then we just had no wet pace. Made the most of strategy in [Race 4], going to slicks, so we made our way to ninth, and then in [Race 5] we were literally last. Dead last.

“I had zero grip. We put another set on with a little bit of difference to the second set and then I think we went three seconds faster a lap on the second set.

“I think we ended up with the third or fourth quickest lap of the race. It might have been a different story if we found that earlier.

“It’s all good. We’re learning. It doesn’t really bother me too much, just as long as we learn from it. It’s just a bit of a messy weekend.

“At least we learnt from Saturday that we had an issue and then [Sunday] we learnt how to make the car faster in the wet. I guess just too little, too late. It’s all part of the learning curve.”

CoolDrive Racing team manager Brendan Hogan (left), Tim Slade, and engineer Mirko De Rosa

While most teams took two tyres in the final race for a quicker pit stop, Slade’s team opted to bolt on four tyres.

Though there was little change in the conditions from the start to the finish of the race, Slade found the best part of four seconds per lap after his pit stop.

Asked what the difference was between sets of tyres to make such significant gains, Slade said, “just a bit of trickery”.

“If you look at the times, I’m pretty sure we were doing [one minute] 22s and then bolted on the next set and did 18s,” said Slade.

“We just had to try something and learn from it. Like I said, we were last, going out the arse end. You’ve just got to try and learn.”

While he would only finish Race 5 in 17th, Slade was buoyed by learnings the team took away from it.

“There’s still positives to take out. First top 10. First points. It’s nothing to write home about, but there’s still plenty of positives.

“Like I said, the guys have had their arses hanging out for not only the last three weeks but literally since the end of last year.

“I’m just happy for them that they can hopefully get a bit of recovery in between now and Tassie and then put their heads down and work out everything we’ve learnt. Just work on some more stuff and be as best as we can in Tassie.”

The Repco Supercars Championship will be back on track for the Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint on April 10-11.

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