Driver’s Eye View: Pukekohe

Motorsport.com’s resident V8 Supercars racecraft expert Tony D’Alberto talks inconsistent penalties, standing up for yourself, and keeping cool under pressure in his latest column.

Driver’s Eye View: Pukekohe
Cameron Waters, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford
Mark Winterbottom, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford and Garth Tander, Holden Racing Team
Winner Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Start action
Atmosphere on the starting grid
David Reynolds, Rod Nash Racing Ford
James Courtney, Holden Racing Team
Start action
Tim Slade, Walkinshaw Performance
Scott Pye, DJR Team Penske Ford
Andre Heimgartner, Super Black Racing Ford
Michael Caruso, Nissan Motorsports
James Moffat, Nissan Motorsports
Craig Lowndes, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Start action

As is often the case at Pukekohe, the hairpin gave us a bit of controversy over the weekend.

Here’s the problem; when Mark Winterbottom was turned around at the hairpin, there were no penalties handed out to anybody. But every time somebody else was turned around, penalties were dished out.

It’s that inconsistency that concerns me.

Being the kind of corner it is, it will always encourage a bit of carnage. Hairpins like that obviously bunch the field right up, and the correct line, or the best line, leaves the door wide open for guys to attack on the inside.

If you look at Frosty’s situation, he’s minding his own business at the start of the race and suddenly he’s facing the wrong way. He’s obviously been turned around by somebody, it’s clear from the on-board footage that he hasn’t spun on his own. Yet there was no penalty given.

Later in the race, when Cam Waters did a similar thing and turned one of the Holden Racing Team cars around, he was given a drive-through.

For me, Cam did deserve a drive-through. But so did whoever was at fault for Frosty’s spin.

However, race control didn’t put the effort in to determining who that was and handing down a penalty. I know it wasn’t clear from the TV footage who is actually to blame for Frosty’s spin, but he obviously got hit, so a quick scan of the on-boards from the few guys behind him would have told the story.

Obviously giving someone a penalty doesn’t help Frosty directly, but it’s about consistency. You have to penalise guys if they’re turning other guys around.

From a driver’s point of view, it gets messy when you don’t know what you can and can’t get away with. I know every incident is unique, and I agree that it’s a tough job to make those calls. But in this case it was the wrong decision to let it go.

Waters holding strong

I thought Waters did a great job mixing it with the two HRT cars on Sunday. He was copping a few hits from two very experienced drivers in Garth Tander and James Courtney, but Cam didn’t lay down and let them go. He fought back, which is a good sign.

At Puke he had good car speed, but it was when the tyres started to go away and he was mixing it with those more experienced guys that he really impressed me. He may have lost a battle here and there, but he kept going, he kept attacking, and he kept going back for more.

It shows how hungry he is for it, and it shows he won’t be pushed around. That’s very important to show early on in your life as a full-time V8 Supercars driver, otherwise you quickly get a reputation as being a punching bag.

We’ve seen that before; even this year Andre Heimgartner has been fast, but has become a bit of an easy target when it comes to door-to-door racing.

But Cam fought hard. It didn’t work out, because he had that drive-through for turning Courtney around. But for me, it’s not about results at this stage for Cam, it’s about stamping his authority on the series and letting the other guys know where he stands.

Frosty keeping cool

Holding on to a championship lead late in the season is hard work – but I think Frosty showed on the weekend that he’s up to it.

I’m sure he wants to be conservative to a point, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to put the car in too much risk.

But I thought on the weekend that after he was turned around, he drove really hard through the field. To me, he didn’t look like a guy who was worried about a championship, he knew he had to knuckle down and get those positions back. He was put in a tough spot, but he turned it all around.

He came from the back and finished 11th purely on pace and racecraft. That shows strength in his character, he didn’t let the situation frustrate him too much.

He’s in a good spot now. He will be praying that he qualifies near the front and has some good, clean races. Because from here, that’s all he needs.

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