For the first time since 1977, South Australia has hosted two rounds of the Virgin Australian Supercars Championship, (Formerly known as the Australian Touring car Championship).
The OTR Supersprint was held at The Bend, Australia’s first brand new permanent racetrack since 1999. The Bend is a state of the art motor racing facility, FIA (the governing body of world motorsport) approved and located on the old Mitsubishi testing grounds on the Eastern outskirts of Tailem Bend.
For Tim Slade, who spent much of his childhood growing up on the Fleurieu Peninsula, and one of four South Australians currently competing in the top tier of Australian motorsport, it was a welcome return home. Slade posted his best results of what has been a consistent, but somewhat frustrating season.
Slade who is placed 9th in the 2018 Championship, completed the first practice session with the fastest time when many of his competitors had great difficulty in coming to terms with the technically challenging track. The performance of the Freightliner Racing ZB Commodore pilot continued to impress on his “home track” as the following two practice sessions saw him in the top ten on the time sheets, before qualifying for Saturday’s race in 9th position.
The first race of the weekend didn’t quite go to plan for Tim and his team as they dropped three positions during the race to finish in 12th position after a very trying afternoon for most teams. The honours of the day going to Red Bull Racing driver Shane Van Gisbergen, ahead of Nissan drivers Michael Caruso and Rick Kelly.
Despite the disappointment for Slade, the mood in the pits of the South Australian remained optimistic for Sunday’s race having increased knowledge and data on the new track. A significant challenge of a new track also provides parity for all teams as there is no data to fall back in setting up the racecar to get the best out of it. Having climbed a steep learning curve of track data over the first two days, Tim and his crew applied this knowledge on Sunday with great results.
The application of learning saw Slade qualify on the second row of the grid in 3rd position, his best one lap result for the year. During the race, Tim was unable to make ground of the Red Bull Racing Holdens in front of him as Jamie Whincup lead the race from start to finish and Shane Van Gisbergen continued Saturdays good form with another second place.
Although, Tim was unable to move up, he was maintaining his podium place until late in the race a slight fuel consumption issue saw him drop a place to Erabus Motorsport driver David Reynolds. Finishing in 4th place is a great result in such a quality field and Slade’s best result for the year, with hopes this turn of speed can be carried into the enduro rounds beginning at Sandown Raceway in Victoria in September.
It must be said that the real winners over the weekend are those behind the development of The Bend Motorsport Park and anyone involved in South Australian Motorsport from spectator to chief officials. A truly world class facility in our backyard is something to be very proud and worth a visit, motorsport fan or not.