Tickford Racing are searching for improvements on all its cars after the first race of the weekend in order to score stronger results at the Coates Hire Melbourne 400.
In Friday’s Race 3 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Chaz Mostert was the highest placed of the four horse squad, finishing the 25 Lap hit out fifth.
A combination of pit stop mishaps, uncomfortable setups and a strategy blunder hampered the remaining three Tickford Racing entries of Mark Winterbottom, Cameron Waters and Richie Stanaway, with team boss Tim Edwards admitting things didn’t go to plan.
“It wasn’t the day we were hoping for,” said Edwards.
“Everyone improved their cars throughout the day but we just had things go against us. Whether it was strategy, pit miscues, or starting on the dirty side of the track, everyone suffered some kind of drama.”
“We really had nothing for the front guys today, they were in a bit of a league of their own,” added Mostert.
“But I think if we can fix our car balance there’s no reason why we can’t run with them. We’ve been trying a lot of things, and I think we’re coming to the end of the path we’ve taken in what we’re trying to achieve, so we’ll have a little bit of a rethink and see if we can unlock more of the speed we had last year.”
An issue with overheating the tyres in qualifying resulted in a set back for Stanaway, with the New Zealander starting as high as 20th in any of the four races.
While a mistake in the pit lane during Race 3 saw the team drop the car off its jacks before fitting the left rear wheel, costing valuable time, with Stanaway eventually taking the chequered flag in 24th.
“We had an issue in qualifying where we were just going way too fast on our out laps,” said Stanway of the tyre overheating problem in qualifying.
“With the high tyre pressures and high load corners we’d cook the tyres before we even started a lap, and didn’t realise it until after, so we’re starting down the order in every race.
“But we threw much different setup on for the race and we were happy with our race pace. My fastest lap was in the top half of the field, so with track position and without dramas in the pits we’d have been on for a quality run.
“Even though we had the drama, I treated it like a regular stint just to try and put one together, and it went pretty well.”
For Winterbottom, a bad strategy call dropped him out of contention at the head of the field early on, when he pitted on Lap 6 with Milwaukee Racing’s Will Davison and a lap after Craig Lowndes.
The latter two struggled with tyre degradation towards the end of the race, though Winterbottom managed to grasp onto a 14th place finish aboard his Ford Falcon FG X.
“I had a good first lap and made it up as far as 11th before I pitted,” said Winterbottom.
“We caught a big group of cars ahead and were passing people fairly comfortably. I felt like we had good tyre life, and we pitted, which would have worked out if everyone came in with us, but only Will (Davison) and (Craig) Lowndes pitted with us.
“We had very good tyre life compared to them, but the rest of the field didn’t follow. I think if we were on with everyone else’s strategy we would have finished seventh or eighth, but we took a gamble and it didn’t pay off.
“You just can’t defend well on old tyres, but it was a better day for us. The result doesn’t match the car, but you take risks in this game; sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.”
Meanwhile, Cameron Waters’ day unfolded slightly better. The Monster Energy Falcon driver started Race 3 ninth, before losing two places to come across the line 11th after languishing in the morning’s pair of qualifying sessions for Races 5 and 6.
“Qualifying wasn’t great, we got a kerb strike in the first session which obviously hurt, and the second session the car just didn’t hook up,” he said of qualifying.
“That sets the scene for the end of the weekend, but as for today, the race was okay. We just struggled with the balance a bit. Overall I think our tyre degradation was good, just need to make the car a bit more comfortable.”
Supercars will return to the track today for Race 4 and 5 of the series.