A few common points have been touched on by drivers ahead of this afternoon’s 4 Hour race at The Bend Motorsport Park.
While many of the drivers have praised the circuit for its challenging layout and enjoyment to drive, there are concerns about navigating traffic in race conditions.
“This track has been absolutely fabulous. For sure, it’s gone down as one of my favourites. It’s such a pure driving enjoyment” commented polesitter Ben Barnicoat in the #45 Thunderhead Carlin Dallara. “But for racing, the track is definitely going to be tricky. It’s quite narrow, so it’s not easy to overtake, and you’re always in the corner. There’s one straight here and other than that there isn’t really anything so it’s not like we can use engine and power by.”
“I do believe the race is going be won in traffic and strategy… You’re going to have to be aggressive, can’t lose too much time you know, because that’s just giving time away to the opposition so you gotta be taking risks and getting through it, but at the same time, not hitting them as well because if you do that it’s all over.”
Jens Klingmann, driver of the #17 Astro Veloce BMW echoed Barnicoat’s assessment: “It’s so narrow… some of the track you simply cannot overtake. Honestly, as a GT driver, I think they expect us to stay on a racing line and not doing something crazy. So I’m gonna stick to my line. They know what to expect and I’m sure they will find a way around us.”
This event is the first to use the full 7.77km GT Endurance layout of The Bend Motorsport Park. While the International loop has been used for local series such as the Virgin Australia Supercars and Shannons Nationals events, the additional section of the circuit is still very green. With a lack of tarmac runoff and windy conditions, the grip levels can change lap on lap.
“It’s like racing a wet track!” Jens added. “There is not a lot of rubber… there’s one racing line and it’s quite sandy as well, and windy. So the sand is coming back to the track and you can feel if you brake a little too late… There’s just no grip at all.”
Other drivers, such as 17-year-old Gustas Grinbergas in the #52 Rick Ware Racing Ligier enjoy the lack of runoff.
“It’s probably one of the best tracks in the world right now. And the way they’ve built it with grass everywhere, no runoffs, and an amazing second sector, it’s really good.”
An additional consideration for this afternoon is the return of rising temperatures experienced in the lead up to the event. The forecast for Tailem Bend this afternoon is looking to hit 30°C, and the heat, combined with a challenging track could pose problems for drivers throughout the field.
“The track is extremely physical, just because there are so many turns and they’re all quite quick, so you have to focus very hard.” Barnicoat commented. “driver fatigue is going to play a huge part. I’m sure we’ll see people getting tired and begin to make mistakes.”