Backing up the speed shown at the previous round, Andrew Anderson in his Pinepac ITM Commodore made good on his prediction of featuring strongly at Timaru on the weekend with an 8th place overall result at the tight and twisty Levels Raceway.
Coming into the weekend, the Pinepac Racing team were full of confidence that the car was going to be suited to the tight flowing nature of the 2.4km circuit, one which Anderson scored his highest placing last season of 4th outright. At the conclusion of the first test session, the Pinepac ITM Commodore was already proving competitive with the 6th fastest time. Although slipping to 14th fastest in the second session, the team knew that once they had mastered the balance of the new chassis that it would be back up the field.
‘The car is still very new to us and we are learning what it likes every session it’s a lot more sensitive to changes but the key is that it’s fast and will only get faster once we get it sorted’ said Andrew reflecting on the opening day’s test sessions.
Arriving at the circuit for Saturday qualifying, teams were greeted with a damp track. With conditions likely to be similar later in the day, the Pinepac Racing team used the warm up session to evaluate alternative setups. Clearly enjoying the tricky conditions, Anderson easily had the Pinepac ITM Commodore inside the top 10 in 8th place.
With teams rolling out for qualifying, Anderson was in a determined frame of mind and focused on getting in to the final top 10 qualification bracket. On a now dry track, the Pinepac ITM Commodore was quickly inside the required top 20 and ended the first session in 12th place. Into the second bracket and with the benefit of minor setup changes, Anderson was able to extract further speed from the Pinepac ITM Commodore and broke into the 1:07 times for 9th fastest and a place in the final bracket as light rain returned to the circuit.
For the final top 10 shoot out, the team made the call to leave the warm used tyres on the car rather than bolting on new rubber. Getting out on to the track early, Anderson showed that the trying conditions were to his liking as he quickly set a time that put him near the front. With rain continuing to fall and the track conditions getting slick, the team elected to park rather than risk damage. The session ended with Anderson in 7th place.
‘Hats off to the team especially Bruce for his call on the setup which was spot on to get us into the top 10′s commented a thrilled Anderson at the end of qualifying.
Race 1 was declared wet, much to Anderson’s excitement. As the field were released, officials had instigated a controlled ‘~no passing’ start till the exit of turn 3, ensuring a clean single file approach to the back straight. Aware of this, Anderson eased into turn 1 allowing the field ahead to slot into single file, however as he took up position another competitor pushed passed and shuffled Anderson wide at turn 2 taking his line and relegating him down the order.
For the duration of the race, Anderson was unable to utilise the pace in the wet of the Pinepac ITM Commodore, being held in a train of cars and settled for crossing the line 9th. Later Anderson was
promoted to 8th as the first corner pass was deemed in breach of rules. ‘It’s a shame that happened (first corner pass) as I had the pace to move up but was held back commented Anderson post race. This was supported by him posting the 5th fastest time during the race.
With the rain holding off on Sunday, the field got their first race under dry conditions. Getting a great jump at the start, Anderson slotted the Pinepac ITM Commodore into the lead bunch on the opening lap and by the end of lap 3 was in 5th place. With the leaders starting to ease away, Anderson was in a thrilling battle for position with Australian David Besnard. ‘It was a lot of fun dicing with Bezzy. My rears (tyres) were starting to go off so I used discretion and let him go’ commented Anderson after the race long battle that saw him come home a strong 6th place.
Benefiting from earlier results, the Pinepac ITM Commodore lined up 22nd for the final reverse grid race. Getting about the job at hand, Anderson was soon on a charge getting up to 15th by lap 3 and into 12th place by lap 11. Determined to keep pushing forward, Anderson was trying everything to move up but could not break through the mid-pack. Not sitting back, Anderson tried several outside moves but ended up getting blocked out and shuffled back.
‘I just couldn’t cut a break. There are not many passing lanes on the track and some of the guys were bump drafting past me on the straights’ said Anderson at the end of the race after coming home 16th. A testament to how hard it was to pass on the tight Timaru circuit was that the round winner and podium place getters did not break into the top 10 or get through the mid pack either, finishing just ahead of Anderson.
Wrapping up the weekend, Anderson was thrilled to show the potential of the Pinepac ITM Commodore. His late season charge up the championship table continues, climbing another 7 places to 12th place. Since the new car hit the track at round 4, Anderson has climbed from 27th place. The team are now carrying out a full service on the Pinepac ITM Commodore and will travel later in the week to the championship final in Invercargill this weekend.