WORDS: Lachlan Mansell
IMAGES: Cameron Dance/V8SCOPS
The opening leg of the 2020 V8SCOPS Endurance Cup had all the theatrical aspects we love about endurance racing, including evolving storylines and strategies, and an awkwardly-timed Safety Car that saw a variety of pit stop and fuel saving tactics in the closing stint.
Here are those who impressed us, as well as those who didn’t.
Thumbs Up – Richard Hamstead/Jake Moloney
The reigning Endurance Cup champs kicked off their title defence in fine style, perfectly blending speed and strategy to outclass a high-quality array of rivals.
Hamstead’s performance in the final stint was nothing short of exquisite; he was able to conserve enough fuel to squeeze a mammoth 36 laps out of the Trans Tasman Racing ZB Commodore’s fuel tank and make what turned out to be the winning pass on Ethan Grigg-Gault, all while maintaining lap times fast enough to ensure he was not caught by those who had opted for a late splash of fuel.
But Moloney deserves his share of accolades as well; while several of his rivals tripped over one another in the early stages, Moloney steered clear of the drama. The TTR squad’s decision to put the #28 car on an alternate strategy clearly helped in this regard, but Moloney capitalised on the clear track by punching out times that were fast and consistent.
Thumbs Down – Penalty for Harley Haber
We’re the first to recognise the V8SCOPS officials have a thankless task at the best of times; just like referees and umpires in other sporting codes, it’s when people are not talking about them that you know they’re doing a good job.
However, the drive-through penalty imposed upon Harley Haber for his lap 17 contact with Madison Down seemed rather draconian. As the overtaking car, the onus was on Down to safely execute the passing manoeuvre and by trying to hang around the outside through Southern Loop, it was Down who had placed his car in a high-risk position which resulted in contact when Haber understeered slightly wide.
The officials have their reasons for handing down the penalty (feeling that Haber released his foot from the brake pedal causing him to understeer wide into Down), but we feel it was a “fair bump, play on” racing incident.
Thumbs Up – Ethan Grigg-Gault/Jordan Caruso
The 2020 V8SCOPS season has been somewhat patchy for the Evolution Racing Team, but this is an outfit that has a stout Endurance Cup record and the combination of the experienced Grigg-Gault and the ever-improving Jordan Caruso proved strong enough for a solid runner-up result.
The duo raced in the front-running pack all day with Caruso putting in one of his best drives of the season so far, before Grigg-Gault proved a safe pair of hands for the run to the finish. While ultimately defeated by the brilliance of Hamstead, Grigg-Gault had to extract the same fuel mileage as the winning TTR car in the run to the finish and he did a fine job.
Thumbs Down – Stuart Vaughan/Jackson Souslin Harlow
While he doesn’t have as much Supercar experience as the V8SCOPS regulars, Jackson Souslin Harlow has become well-renowned for his versatility across a wide range of vehicles and tracks, achieving success in series such as Just Send It.
JSH’s qualifying performance at Phillip Island was certainly impressive, landing the second United Sim Sports machine on the second row of the grid. However, his co-driver Stuart Vaughan couldn’t maintain that level of excellence, a slow start causing the car to plummet into the mid-pack danger zone. From there, the race rapidly unravelled until the car ultimately retired with a crash at pit entry after 41 laps.
Thumbs Up – hard chargers
While qualifying is normally a critical part of V8SCOPS rounds, its importance is somewhat diminished in endurance races where there can be a significant difference between one-lap speed and consistent race pace. By nature, endurance races also offer up a greater degree of strategic variation, providing teams with the opportunity to use tactics to work their way up the order.
Such strategically-crafted results were displayed by a few teams, but the most notable performances came from the Simon Feigl/Zac Hanlin Altus eSports Mustang (which charged from 32nd on the grid to fifth) and Emily Jones/Andrew Fraser Trans Tasman Racing entry (23rd on the grid to seventh at the chequered flag).
Thumbs Down – EXG Racing
Their cars were beautifully-presented, but results-wise the Phillip Island 500 was a shocker for EXG Motorsports. While Kenneth Latter and Sean Lindsell managed to come home 24th, the team’s other two cars (Brad Rattew/Corey Preston and Jacob Knight/Jett Bennett) were both involved in early incidents and their days were done after just 11 and 27 laps respectively.