JJ: “we can’t beat car 1 by lining up behind them in pitlane”

As we continue the countdown to the biggest championship battle in V8 Supercars history, we caught up with Car No.888 engineer Jeromy “JJ” Moore to discuss the major issue on every Craig Lowndes fan’s lips – stacking.

Yep, just mentioning the dirty “s” word to Lowndesy fans is a sin, the three-time champion a perennial victim of the most frustrating strategy in motorsport.

Not that it’s anyone’s fault. The general rule is that whoever is leading on track gets first dibs. And that’s fair enough. Engineers are constantly reworking flowcharts and strategy and see the benefits of stacking or not in a race and more often than not you lose less time by stacking than staying on track – unless of course your main rival is your team-mate.

As such, come Sunday’s final 250km at the Sydney Olympic Park, JJ has declared the gloves will be off and stacking WILL NOT be an option should Lowndsey find himself behind J-Dub and racing for the championship.

“Ideally, we won’t be in that position and would be leading on the track but if it were to come down to that scenario we won’t be stacking,” JJ says.

“You have to risk it because you know you’re going to take pain and you won’t have a chance to get back in front of him if you stack. In that case, if there is a safety car and Jamie pits, we have to stay out and go as hard as we can and hope for another safety car to win by a different strategy. We’ve got to beat him and we can’t beat him by lining up behind him in pitlane.”

Those words should come as a relief to fans of both Red Bull drivers, who head into this weekend’s round separated by just 20 points. Sunday stacking would all but certainly cost one the championship.

“The same goes for both garages,” JJ continues.

“We know when we pit how many positions we’re going to drop and how much time, so on Saturday if we’re only going to drop one or two for whatever reason then we’ll take the risk we can get them back and pit – depending on how early it is and who you’re going to be stuck behind and where.

“Ideally, you never want to stack and we’ll be doing our best to avoid stacking in any case on Saturday. But on Sunday, it’s a definite no-go. Stacking is always a negative – especially when you’re racing each other. And you don’t want a championship to be decided by pitlane stacking.

“We’ll have a full list of scenarios, a flowchart in hand going into the race so we can pre-meditate as much as possible. If the boys both can keep good track position and their cars in one piece, it could come down to mathematics and strategy. It’ll be on a knife’s edge.”

The fact that there are two races on the unforgiving streets of Homebush make calculations for the championship near impossible. There could be any number of outcomes on Saturday (see our attempt at trying to work out just a handful of the possible scenarios).

“Saturday’s goal is simply to finish in front of Jamie – and hopefully as far as possible,” he says.

“We’d like to finish ahead of Frosty, too but if that weren’t the case, we’d like to be no more than one or two spots behind him. You definitely want to reduce the points lead to Jamie on Saturday. You don’t want to go into Sunday with a bigger gap to make up.

“As soon as race one is over we’ll be straight on the calculator and defining possible outcomes for Sunday. As soon as you’re down to the last race it’s pretty simple and we’ll have a sheet that shows where we need to finish to take it in comparison to Jamie and Frosty. And the other side of the garage will be doing the same.”

So what if the championship comes down to Sunday – last race, last corner and Craig is closing in on J-Dub?

“Craig would take more of a risk than if it were a normal round,” JJ says.

“If Frosty was out of the equation and Red Bull was to finish one-two regardless of what happened – without taking each other out – I think he’d be having second thoughts other than just sitting behind him, that’s for sure.

“But the move certainly wouldn’t happen if Frosty was leading and we were battling for 10th. The last thing we want is for our drivers to come together and allow Frosty to come through and do a Steven Bradbury and take the win.”

So it’s mate against mate, and more importantly, two mates against one rival with a blue oval on his bonnet.

Stay tuned to this week as we bring you news from the other side of the garage with Dutto and the final words from J-Dub and Lowndesy themselves.