Day one of the Melbourne SuperSprint for Nulon Racing could only be described as character-building, but the team still has plenty to be proud of after digging deep to come back from a heavy practice one crash.
Tim Slade was leading the time sheets early in his #23 Nulon Racing entry in this morning’s opening practice, before crashing into the turn five wall when the back end of his Camaro stepped out unexpectedly.
Slade, who had been P1 on the sheets until just moments before the incident, was thankfully uninjured following the heavy contact, however his Camaro sustained quite a bit of damage.
With time and an overall Gen3 parts shortage working against them, the Nulon Racing team got to work immediately and with the help of Grove Racing’s fabricator and a number of teams up and down pit lane when it came to sourcing parts, Slade was able to make the afternoon race start.
While the #23 was forced to start from pit lane after missing the window to join the grid on-track by only 15 seconds, Slade, his engineer Blake Smith and the crew made the most of their race to close a considerable gap to the rest of the field and then advance up to P20 by the end of the 19-lap outing in a strong result considering the circumstances.
Despite strong car speed, it was also a challenging day for the #31 Nulon Racing Camaro, with driver Jimmy Golding finishing this afternoon’s race P22 after having earlier brought home results of P19 (practice one), P16 (practice two), P16 (qualifying race 3) and P19 (qualifying race four), however the team is feeling confident of a better day tomorrow following the lessons learnt today.
“It was always going to be a super busy day with so many sessions between two practice sessions, two qualifying sessions and a race,” Nulon Racing Team Principal, Matt Cook, said.
“So, we were always going to be up against it, and then we unfortunately had a bit of bad luck with Tim damaging the car quite heavily in practice one which obviously put us under a lot of duress.
“The boys and girls did a fantastic job and we got Tim’s car out for the race, albeit starting from pit lane, but he managed to get some points and that is what it is all about, keeping our head down and getting as many points as we can for the championship. Thank you also to everyone who helped us in our efforts to get Tim’s car repaired.
“Jimmy had a really quick car and we tried to capitalize on that, but early in the day we were struggling with stability which affected us in qualifying, and then in the race we were a little out of phase with the hard tyre and the soft tyre strategy towards the end of the race and so we were a little exposed there. Having said that though, we learnt a lot from today and that puts us in a really good spot from which to move forward and start again tomorrow.
“They say diamonds are formed through pressure, and our team well and truly performed under pressure today! I couldn’t be more proud of them and while we have a long way to go this weekend, I am confident that tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday are going to be better days for us all.”
Slade expressed his gratitude to the team and others in pit lane who assisted in getting him back on-track this afternoon.
“It was massively annoying and frustrating to have that happen in practice one, especially given the circumstances of how it all happened,” Slade said.
“I think we all came into this weekend not really knowing what these cars were going to be like around here, but kind of thinking they were going to be pretty loose. So, my whole aim for the first practice session was just to chip away at it, and that is what I was doing.
“I actually had no idea where we were on the time sheets at the time, and I had stuffed a corner a couple of corners earlier, so I had decided to button off and kind of cruise around for the rest of the lap.
“I actually plucked a different gear to what I normally would around that corner and I felt like I was just sort of cruising, and then the rear just snapped on me and that was that. It just felt very, very random.
“I want to say a massive thank you to everyone in the team for fixing the car and also to the Grove guys for letting us borrow their fabricator to weld up the back.
“If we had the parts I think we would have got out for qualifying, but obviously there is a shortage with parts at the moment for everyone.
“It was good to get out there for the race and salvage something from the day, and while we will start last again tomorrow because we missed qualifying, we won’t be starting from pit lane which should help us a little bit.
“Starting from pit lane saw us very far behind at the start, but with good thinking and race strategy by my engineer Blake Smith, I think we definitely maximized that race – we couldn’t have done anything more, so while it was disappointing, at least we got to salvage something.”
Golding is looking forward to putting today’s lessons to good use for tomorrow’s race four.
“It was not our strongest day today, but we did have some positives with good pace in qualifying and in the race on the soft tyre, but unfortunately we went onto the hard tyre too early in the race,” Golding said.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and today we ultimately made the wrong decision and I put my hand up on that one, thinking we needed to come in early. We just didn’t have the pace at the end there, but that is the way it goes sometimes.
“We ticked off everything on our list and we got a lot of data by completing all of the sessions and laps today which is important, so now we have plenty of room for improvement and we have a lot to work through tonight now as we look to do better tomorrow.”
Day two of the four-day Melbourne SuperSprint will host race four of the 2023 Supercars Championship from 2.55 pm on Friday 31 March, before the event continues across Saturday 1 April and Sunday 2 April with two further qualifying sessions and races. For full event information, visit www.supercars.com.au
For more information on Nulon 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