SATURDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2009
SIMONSEN TAKES TOP TEN V8 SUPERCAR FINISH AT THE ISLAND
As one of the most versatile and busy GT sportscar
racers in the world, Danish star Allan Simonsen has
had to make some hard decisions.
Do I race only in Europe, like he has all year in
a successful Le Mans Series program with Hankook-Farnbacher
Racing or do I fly to Australia to race with the best
V8 Supercar team in the world, and a strong prospect
of winning both the Phillip Island 500 and the Bathurst
It was a commitment he'd made very early in the season
when he received the phone call from Roland Dane.
In 2007, he made the trip down under for the second
year in a row to join Triple Eight Race Engineering
and Team Vodafone at the Aussie enduros.
Teamed with ex-Japanese GT500 champ Richard Lyons,
the pair fought a strong battle at Mt. Panorama, Bathurst,
to bring their Ford Falcon V8 Supercar home in fifth
His Vodafone team mates Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes
went on to win the blue riband event.
The year prior he'd also had a top ten finish on
the cards until a plastic bag became lodged at the
front of the car causing engine temperatures to skyrocket,
forcing an unscheduled pit.
Fast forward three years and here we are again, but
the scenario has changed. His 2009 LMS campaign has
been strong but must be looked at as a development
season for his main sponsors, the South Korean tyre
giant, Hankook, who have taken on the established
tyres manufacturers, Michelin and Dunlop in their
2009, at V8 Supercar races, Allan has the services
of one very talented and likeable guy - James Thompson,
who has two British Touring Car titles to his name
along with a World Touring Car championship.
Team Vodafone currently lead the V8 Supercar Championship,
with Jamie Whincup and they won both enduros last
year, along with the championship. Everything is in
place for a great result for the two and only international
drivers, paired together.
Simonsen and Thompson first tasted the 2009-spec
FG Ford Falcon V8 Supercar, August 31 and September
2, at the teams official test track, Queensland Raceway.
The focus was on getting a comfortable enduro setup
that would work for both drivers and the allow them
to become aquainted with the new machinery.
And so, onto the event - Friday was spent giving
both drivers a taste of the PI circuit along with
over 20 others that had no prior V8 Supercar experience
at this venue. Running full fuel loads and used tyres,
Simonsen was only a second off the fastest car, which
ran fresh rubber and a light load. Thompson, who had
not driven a rear wheel drive race car for many years,
was less than a second behind - a gap he would close
in Saturday's qualifying.
The powers-to-be at Australian V8 Supercars have
being trying to simplify race formats in an attempt
to help fans understand just what is going on.
Early in year they introduced an "option" tyre, that
was a lot quicker than the standard tyre, but suffered
faster drop-off. To help fans determine if a car had
the OT's on, they had yellow sidewalls. But the yellow
stuff fell off and no one had a clue what was what.
Slow drivers were all of a sudden challenging for
a race lead only to go backwards several laps later.
It certainly added some action but also major confusion.
The enduro races do not allow the OT. It's just a
simple 500km race and a 1000km one. Well, not that
its that simple.
But what's this? More changes for the fans?
Let me explain. So after the three practice sessions
on Friday, there was a practice session for Driver
A (Simonsen) and then for B (Thompson), on Saturday
morning. That was followed by a qualifying session
for A and then B. On Saturday afternoon, there is
a 14 lap driver A race, with a compulsory pit stop
where two tyres must be changed. Next the B driver
race, with no pitstop. Add the A and B race results/times
and there you have the 500km grid. Simple eh? Hang
on - they've now just said either driver can elect
to do the pitstop, but A will be the preference I
guess, to get it out of the way. Only after the lead
car has done five laps. Clear now?
So, Allan took P17 in qual A (1.34.1150), with James,
20th in qual B (1.34.5294). What that tells you is
just how close they are to each other and how fast
Thompson has come to grips with the Falcon.
Simonsen lined up on the outside part of the track
on grid 17 and made a great start, moving to 14th
by the time he'd got out of turn 2.
Up front the start was hairy, with Steve Johnson
stalling his Falcon from P3. Amazingly everyone cleared
the striken car without a drama.
Meanwhile Allan was applying the blowtorch to Cameron
McConville's Holden, perhaps trying to tell him to
stop driving his Maranello Motorsport Ferrari whilst
he's in Europe!
Todd Kelly was now in the lead, with Allan's Vodafone
team mate Craig Lowndes directly behind.
Allan elevated to 13th on lap 8 and would wittle
down the opposition to finish an excellent 10th.
The front battle would go down to the wire with Kelly
holding on for the win, from Lowndes and Holden's
lead driver Will Davison.
James Thompson will now have pit duties in the B
race, since Allan was not called in.
Allan was upbeat after the race: "I had a great start
and it was one of those things that had been worrying
me having not done a standing start for a while now.
"The car ran well, our setup good, but the engine
temperature went up about 10 degrees causing a loss
of power that made passing harder. Never the less
starting 17th and finishing 10th in 14 laps, equates
to passing a careevery 2nd lap.
"I'm really looking forward to tomorrows 500km race