The first day of racing for the Newcastle 500 has proved to be a day of extremes for PremiAir Racing and its drivers, Jimmy Golding (#31 Nulon Racing Camaro) and Tim Slade (#400 Nulon Racing Camaro).
The day got off to a fantastic start for the team, with both cars in the top ten in qualifying, which saw both of their entries through to the Top Ten Shootout for the first time in the team’s short Repco Supercars Championship history.
Slade would qualify 4th for his 400th Supercars career race start, while Golding would start on the fifth row of the grid from P10 for the first race of the new Gen3 era.
The opening stage of the race went well for the pair, with both cars looking racey in P5 and P9, respectively.
Golding was amongst the first group of racers to pit, coming to the lane on lap 25 from P9. With a small fuel-filling issue in that first stop, he re-joined in P20 but was able to work his way back up over the coming laps to be P13 by lap 34, while Slade stayed out to lap 30, pitting from fourth on the road.
It was here that major trouble struck for the first time for the team, with a wheel nut issue on the front right, seeing the #400 Nulon Racing Camaro losing minutes in the pits, leaving Slade to re-join at the bottom of the order.
That wasn’t the end of the angst for Slade either, with bodywork issues then forcing another two stops on laps 43 and 46 to compound the misfortunes for PremiAir Racing’s new recruit in his milestone race.
Golding meanwhile continued on in P13 before overtaking Matt Payne for P12 with a pass that drew praise from the commentary team on lap 42, before he later passed James Courtney on lap 53 to move up to P11.
Things were looking good for the #31 Nulon Racing Camaro, however Lady Luck had other ideas and the fuel issue which had been only small in Golding’s first stop escalated for the second stop on lap 57, seeing him lose valuable time in the lane. He would re-join in P23, from where he battled on to finish P20 by the end of the 94-lap race.
“What a day we had today,” PremiAir Racing Team Principal, Matt Cook, lamented.
“We were very fast all day. We had two cars in the top ten for qualifying, which meant that we had two cars in the top ten shootout for the very first time, which was really exciting.
“We then qualified fourth and 10th for the race, which was an amazing result for the team.
“The race got off to a good start, but unfortunately, we had a wheel nut issue on Tim’s car which put us down a few laps, and then that was compounded further by the fact that we needed two stops to fix a bodywork issue a little later in the race. And on Jimmy’s car, we had a fuel filling issue which ultimately put him down the order.
“It really was a day of going from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows, and so all we can do now is regroup and move on to tomorrow.
“With the weather conditions looking pretty variable, it is going to be another day of anything can happen and we will be doing all we can to make sure that we can come away with better results to round out the first event of the season.”
Golding said there were plenty of positives for the #31 Nulon Racing Camaro when reflecting on his day.
“We saw the ups and downs of motorsport today,” Golding said.
“We had a very solid start for the team with two cars in the top ten.
“The race was going very well – we had settled into a rhythm and had good pace the whole way through. We had a good amount of fuel onboard, and passed a few cars.
“Our last pit stop then was very long due to refuelling issues, which ultimately ended our day competitively and put us a lap down.
“But even so, there are a lot of positives to take away and hopefully we can improve tomorrow.”
Slade was understandably disappointed with how his 400th race concluded, but was still keen to focus on the good, while being sure to make the most of every opportunity presented by the 94-lap race.
“It has been a disappointing end to the day for sure with how the race panned out,” Slade said.
“Otherwise, I was happy with practice on Friday and the things that we learnt with the car, and building that relationship between Phil and myself; and then today was awesome with qualifying and the shootout, and I was feeling pretty comfortable in that first stint, although I did drop one spot as I had a terrible start, so I have to work on that!
“I was P5, then obviously we had the dramas in the pits with the wheel which put us a few laps down, and we need to work out what happened there.
“That basically put an end to our day really, but being the first race of the year, I didn’t want to just cruise around, I wanted to still get around at a decent pace which is good for match fitness, being the first race of the year.
“We will debrief now, and hopefully we can be better tomorrow.”
The third and final day of the Newcastle 500, the first round for the 2023 Supercars Championship season, will host qualifying (11.15am), a Top Ten Shootout (12.35pm) and another 250km race (3.20pm) across Sunday March 12. For event information, visit www.supercars.com.au
For more information on PremiAir Racing, please visit www.premiairracing.com or follow the team on its social media platforms at www.facebook.com/PremiAirRacing/, www.instagram.com/premiair_racing/, www.linkedin.com/company/premiairracing/ and www.twitter.com/premiairracing