Track changes and night racing make Perth “crazy”
A combination of a new track surface and racing under lights at the circuit for the first time has drawn a positive reaction from a vast majority of the Supercars Championship grid, following first practice for the Perth SuperNight event on Thursday evening, local time.
Significant off-season re-paving of the 2.4 kilometre circuit has changed it’s character from a traditionally low-grip surface to one that some drivers suggest is now the best on the calendar.
Meanwhile, the addition of night racing in Perth added another variable for drivers to come to terms with in the only night practice session ahead of this evening’s eleventh race of the season.
The second practice session and qualifying will both be held in daylight prior to the 120km, single-stop race that will commence at 6:45pm local time.
23Red Ford Mustang driver Will Davison was third fastest at night and said the new surface took time to adapt a driving style.
“You’re trying to feel what the car is doing – it’s very difficult. One thing is picking your marks and getting the ‘line and length’ right. The grip level is just massively high – it’s a very strange feeling in the car and it looks a bit like you’re in fast forward.
“The first comment I had after the session was that the brakes aren’t up to the level of grip we’re able to use. The braking zones are so short here. You can’t brake any further into the corner yet the car can cope with the grip. It’s about getting the car stable and braking smoothly.”
Davison suggested that the combination of the new surface and racing in the dark was likely to lead to some dramatic racing.
“The grip is so high in the middle of the corner and you’re using massive brake pressures,” he told Fox Sports.
“There’s going to be some big ‘offs’ in the race. If you leave the track, you’re going to leave it in a big way.”
Championship leader Scott McLaughlin echoed Davison’s thoughts after the first session.
“Night, plus the new surface is crazy,” he said. “The first few laps took a bit to get used to it all. Tomorrow (Friday) is going to be interesting. It’s really fun just driving the car on the front tyre like it’s an F1 car. It feels like we have got a lot of downforce even though we’ve been given a haircut..”
Tickford Racing’s Chaz Mostert said that closing speeds and following closely in night racing conditions would also play a role across the weekend.
“First of all the track is pretty awesome – the first few laps feel so quick in the dark. You’re rolling around going ‘you’ve never been that fast around barby before!’,” he said.
“We went a bit early to get a better run on the tyres for a few laps. It’s hard, people have their practice on looking in the mirrors but sometimes they don’t always see you!”
As well as echoing the thoughts of his nearest rivals, Penrite Racing’s David Reynolds said finding the correct balance would be key – especially given just one 30-minute session remains prior to qualifying for race eleven on Friday afternoon.
“It feels like it’s going a million miles an hour.. it’s cool,” Reynolds, who finished practice one in fifth position, told Fox Sports.
“I think with racing you’re never really sure about everything… I think we made progress in that session. We’ve still got to look at the data overnight and come back with some better changes. It’s so bizarre this place. It’s unusual to have a lot of grip but it’s really hard as a driver because there’s a fine line with the new surface to over drive it or under drive it.
“If you over drive it it’s all turn in oversteer and you’re sliding but if you under drive it it’s too easy. It’s a very fine balance.”