Bathurst 1000 lessons for De Pasquale in SMP practice

Anton De Pasquale

Hard tyre knowledge for the Repco Bathurst 1000 was more important to Anton De Pasquale than his headline pace in Practice 1 at Sydney Motorsport Park.

The Shell V-Power Racing Team driver was once again fastest in his first practice session at the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight, finishing 0.27s clear of the Repco Supercars Championship field.

Save for one set of super soft tyres in each race, drivers are only allowed to use the hard compound this weekend, whereas the soft was predominant in the preceding three events.

With the high probability of rain both today and tomorrow at Eastern Creek, Friday night’s dry practice session might prove irrelevant in the very short term.

However, with Dick Johnson Racing off the pace when the Mount Panorama 500 opened the season, running on the compound which will be used exclusively at next month’s Bathurst 1000 provided a useful guide for De Pasquale and his engineer, Ludo Lacroix.

“I think we’re looking at probably wet most of the weekend – obviously that’s a guess, but the forecast isn’t looking pretty – so for us it was more just understanding the hard tyre and going through our own plan,” said the #11 Mustang driver.

“Lap time’s sort of irrelevant, it was just more just understanding… we haven’t really had anything on the hard and when he have this year, Bathurst and stuff, we’re a little bit behind the other guys.

“So, [we were] just doing a bit of that stuff, understanding how that sort of translates from the soft and things like that.

“That was sort of a tick in our book and it was all good.”

The hard tyre is a relative rarity nowadays, also used this year alongside the soft at the second Sydney event, but nowhere else aside from Mount Panorama, where it is a necessity due to the high loads which cars are subject to.

De Pasquale advised the focus in terms of Sydney versus Bathurst in Practice 1 was “a bit of both”, and while one track does not necessarily directly relate to the other, every little bit helps.

“It’s pretty much a soft tyre championship but the biggest race is on hard tyres,” he noted.

“So, we still want to understand a bit of that while we have the opportunity in the dry, with the good track and hard tyre.

“How much that translates to Bathurst, we don’t know, because it’s obviously complete different, but [it is] just for our own personal learnings, and understanding a few things, really.”

De Pasquale’s Bathurst 1000 co-driver, Tony D’Alberto, has also stepped up preparations for the Great Race of late.

He is said to have done most of the driving in Car #11 in Tuesday’s Championship test day, then tested again in the Dunlop Super2 Series field on Thursday ahead of a cameo this weekend with Eggleston Motorsport, while also partaking in Additional Drivers Practice.

“It’s been good to have him here,” said De Pasquale.

“He was here last weekend too, so he got a heap of laps on Tuesday.

“That was basically a test day for him – I did like one lap, it was like a 34 or something [ie well off the pace] – just to get him back into the groove.

“He’s obviously doing Super2 so he should be pretty sharp come Bathurst and hopefully we’ll give it a shot somewhere.”

D’Alberto was 13th fastest on combined times in Super2 practice, while De Pasquale’s margin in Supercars Championship Practice 1 could have been event greater had he not strayed beyond track limits at Turn 5 on a late flyer.

He had gone fastest to the first sector, on another good set of tyres, but would only say that the cancelled lap was “much the same” and “pretty similar” as his official best.

The 26-year-old is currently sixth in the championship, nine points behind Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters, and second in the $25,000 Beaurepaires Sydney Cup at 43 points in arrears of Red Bull Ampol Racing’s Shane van Gisbergen.

Practice 2 takes place at 11:50 local time/AEDT, with showers forecast for the afternoon, and a 100 percent chance of rain tomorrow.

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