Cauchi: Friday Practice is Key to Speed

With six winners from nine races already this year, the 2015 V8 Supercars championship is, as we predicted, shaping up to be tougher than taking on Mayweather while handcuffed. Despite having charged out of the starting blocks in true bull style at Clipsal, the No.1 Commodore is facing an all too familiar scenario at this stage in the season, consistency being the niggling issue.

He’s won a round and led the championship, but Jamie Whincup is far from satisfied with his performance so far this year and his Race Engineer, David Cauchi, is on exactly the same page.

“The start of this year has been unfortunately a bit similar to last year in the way that it’s been very up and down,” Cauchi said.

“We were very good out of the box at Clipsal with two poles and a race win in that first race, and then in the second Saturday race we were looking strong until we got the puncture, while Sunday we didn’t quite have the pace of a couple of other cars.

“Tassie was again a bit up and down and so was Perth, so we’re unfortunately seeing a few of the same trends as we did last year. It just means that the competition is going to be fierce all year and we’re going to have to keep working harder if we want to stay at the top.”

This time last year saw the pair in a similar position, struggling for consistent car speed and amassing just one podium from three rounds (Winton, Auckland and Perth) and no pole positions. According to Cauchi, it’s not as black and white as referring to previous data to solve the issues. In this sport, as soon as you’ve solved one problem, another rears its ugly head.

“We’ve been struggling a bit more on the hard tyre actually, which has normally been a strength of ours,” he said.

“We’re just not quite in the sweet spot with the car at the moment and we’re just missing what I need to give Jamie for him to go fast. We’re working hard at it in the background and I’m sure we’ll get it sorted.”

The two 60km sprints on Saturday mean that qualifying is more important than ever, emphasising the need to nail both the qualy and race setups during Friday’s two hours of practice, and Cauchi believes that this is where the key lies to unlocking the wings that the No.1 Red Bull Holden seems to be missing.

“We just need to do a better job in Friday practice and make sure we’re doing a good job with the tyres we have. We need to understand where we are with the car and the tyres relative to the tyre condition and just make sure we don’t get lost, then find that the car’s not where we need it when we put on some good rubber. I think that’s been the most difficult part and where I’ve personally been struggling. Then collectively, as Jamie and me as a pair, we’ve been falling over a bit.”

If the last two years are anything to go by, Winton is unlikely to be the light on the horizon for the reigning champ. With two DNFs and a best finishing result of ninth, the Victorian circuit has been the only venue at which Jamie hasn’t stood on the podium since the introduction of the Car of the Future.

“We definitely need to start turning things around at Winton,” Cauchi said. “Unfortunately, having said that, our track record over the last couple of years hasn’t been that great – it’s actually been one of our bogey circuits, so that’s not very confidence-inspiring. It again comes back to starting off by doing a better job on Friday and making sure that the car’s where we need it to be come qualifying.”