After over 3 months of construction, the wraps were finally taken off the new Pinepac ITM Commodore as it made its NZV8 Championship debut last weekend at Manfeild. With no pre-event testing under his belt, Andrew Anderson quickly showed that the car was going to be competitive, posting the 7th fastest time in its first hit-out. Anderson was less than 1 tenth of a second slower than the 2nd fastest time.
‘The car was great straight out of the box, and those times came easy’ commented Anderson after completing some sighting laps and then posting the time. ‘It is a lot different (the car) to any I have driven before and it feels like there is lots more in it yet, just give us some time to get our head around it’ said Andrew at the end of the Pinepac ITM Commodore’s first test session.
Although a fraction slower in the afternoon’s session, having made some minor adjustments to the chassis the team were still full of confidence as they wrapped up the first day’s outing with the new car and completed some sponsor rides late in the afternoon.
‘We made some changes and it was a lot more sensitive to them than we expected. We’ll change it back and try another direction for qualifying’ commented Anderson on the car’s second test session which had them posted 14th overall, 2nd placed Holden.
With changeable weather conditions forecast over the weekend, the Pinepac Racing Team were greeted with a damp track for the Saturday morning warm-up. Not daunted by the conditions, Anderson was again at the pointy end of the field, revelling in the tricky conditions and easily posting the 5th fastest and leading Holden time.
As the Pinepac Racing Team finished car preparations and lined up for the first qualifying bracket , it appeared that the weather was going to hold. However just as the cars were going to be released, the skies opened. Quick work in the pits saw the Pinepac ITM Commodore fitted with wet tyres and a change to a wet setup. With a wait and see approach, Andrew headed out onto the track after the initial standing water had been removed.
Again quickly getting about the task at hand, Anderson was easily inside the top 20 and in fact was well inside the top 10. With less than half the session remaining the officials declared the track dry so it was another change of tyres. Already in the pits the Pinepac Racing Team pulled off another quick change to setup and tyres, getting Anderson back out onto the track.
Once again the Pinepac ITM Commodore was safely inside the required bracket and although being held up on his second flying lap (closing in and catching Cameron McLean) Anderson returned to the pits. The closing stages of the session saw the track rapidly dry out and the decision was made to post another lap. Exiting the pits Anderson’s onboard timer showed enough time remaining however upon approaching the front straight the session was closed preventing him starting a flying lap. In the pits the team could only watch the monitors as they got bumped down to 27th place as the field completed the session.
Not deterred by the low starting order, Anderson was confident of moving forward in the race. As he toured around the track warming the car for the afternoon’s first race, a vibration to the rear of the car developed and, following an inspection in the pits and another tyre change, he was forced to start from pit lane. As the field thundered past, Anderson joined the tail of the 32 car field with caution as cars were already stranded from an opening lap incident.
Knuckling down, Anderson was able to post some quick times as he closed in on the back of the field. Moving positively forward, his progress was only halted by a mid race shower that stopped the race and once again required teams to change tyres, back onto wets. At the restart Anderson was once again revelling in the conditions and was able to climb up to 18th at the finish. ‘The car was great in the dry but it was awesome in the wet, I couldn’t believe how much grip it had’ said Anderson post race.
Benefiting from 12th fastest time in race 1, Anderson started in this position for race 2 and in dry conditions showed pace to keep with the front runners. Moving forward every lap, he was in 7th place on lap 3 and held this position for the middle section of the race until a caution period. At the restart and starting to suffer from lack of rear grip, Anderson slipped back to 10th place at the flag.
For the final reverse grid race Anderson started near the back of the field in 21st place but aided by some excellent team management was able to start on brand new tyres. As the 32 car field thundered into the first turn, Anderson elected on a cautious approach which was to pay dividends as others battled for track position allowing him to slip through. Making solid progress forward and rounding up the mid pack, the Pinepac ITM Commodore had jumped an incredible 10 positions in the opening lap to 11th place.
With the lead bunch in sight, Anderson’s progress forward was momentarily halted as some front starting competitors were proving difficult to round up. After several attempts for position, he was on the charge again now in 8th place by lap 6. ‘I was able to hook in behind Nick (Ross) and we both got by, then I got a run on him exiting the hairpin’ commented Anderson on his early race progress forward.
With clear track ahead and the other front runners still buried in the pack behind him, Anderson set off in search of the lead bunch. Benefiting from the new tyres and improved setup, the Pinepac ITM Commodore was able to put in some consistently fast lap times, pulling in the cars ahead and gaining further track positions. A late race caution period saw Anderson take the restart in 6th place and with 4 laps to go he was holding down 5th place after passing half of the field.
In the closing stages Anderson began to struggle with rear end grip, but although slipping back to 6th place he was able to hold this position over the remaining laps and ahead of a close following John McIntyre (current championship leader) and eventual round winner Angus Fogg.
‘The car was great and I really enjoyed that one (race 3)’ commented Anderson at the finish, ‘the new car certainly allows us to compete with the guys at the front now and I can’t wait till the next round’ said Anderson at the conclusion of the meeting.
Anderson finished 10th overall for the round, and moved from 27th to 19th on the championship points ladder.
The team would like to thank all those involved in getting the new Pinepac ITM Commodore on the track for the meeting.