A Dramatic Start to the Championship for Tickford Racing
Round wrap up from the Bathurst 500
Kicking off the 2021 Supercars Championship with the Repco Mt Panorama 500 ensured no shortage of drama to set the tone for the rest of the season. An odd start to the racing year given 2020’s championship finale also being held at the fabled track, the 23 corner, 6.2km long goliath that is Mt Panorama posed a challenge to open 2021 for the drivers of the Ryco-backed Tickford Racing fleet, Jack Le Broq in the No. 5 Truck Assist Ford Mustang, Cam Waters behind the wheel of the No. 6 Monster Energy Ford Mustang, and James Courtney piloting the No.44 Boost Mobile Ford Mustang. All three drivers gave us their thoughts before the big weekend. Jack Le Broq: “It’s going to be interesting. Usually we get something like six hours of practice leading up to it, but this time we have two 60-minute practice sessions. It’s going to be short and sharp trying to blow the cobwebs out around here and not scaring yourself too much, I’m just looking to being back on track. It’s going to be a very different approach with a sprint race here, I think it’s going to be a little bit hairy with everyone battling hard from the start, but I’m sure it’ll be pretty cool, and anytime you get to race at Bathurst is exciting.”
Cam Waters: “Obviously we’ve just come from Bathurst as the last event last year and we’re back here again. We went pretty well here last year. Hopefully this year kicking the season off here we can go one better, and have a really good weekend to start the championship. I’m really pumped to get started.”
James Courtney: ““It’s a very different start to the year. Adelaide (the traditional season opener) is typically a really, really physically tough event, whereas Bathurst isn’t all that physically demanding, so physically I think it’s going to be a much easier start to the year for us. Being that it’s at Bathurst is going to be quite a different mindset. Typically when we’re here you’re nursing the car for a lot of the day, but we’re just going to be going hell for leather, so it’s going to be good. The track won’t rubber up as much as it does over the ‘1000’ week, so I’m not sure how the times are going to be with all that sort of stuff. But yeah, I’d drive around Bathurst every weekend. It’s a great place, it should be interesting to see how it pans out as a sprint race.”
Practice kicked off on Friday and ended with all three Tickford Racing Ford Mustangs edging out competitive session times, with both Le Broq finding more than a second between Practice 1 and Practice 2, ending with a best of 2m05.49s, placing him 12th on the Leaderboard. Meanwhile, Courtney found 4 places between Practice 1 and Practice 2, finishing up with a 5th placing and best time of 2m05.49s. Waters blitzed the practice sessions, placing 2nd on the Leaderboard for both Practice 1 and 2, ending with a best of 2m04.79s.
As Saturday rolled around, Waters finished the Race 1 qualifying session in high spirits, edging out 3rd place with a blistering 2m04.59s, earning him a place in the Top Ten Shootout in which he earned a place in pole position for Race 1. Both Le Broq and Courtney struggled to find the place to break into the Top Ten Shootout with Jack qualifying 15th with a 2m05.39s and James qualifying 11th for Race 1 with a 2m05.14s.
Despite earning pole position for Saturday’s Race 1, Cam encountered drama early on in the No.6 Mustang with a power steering issues forcing him into the pits immediately after his Lap 6 pit stop, losing six laps before re-joining the action and ultimately ending in a 20th place finish to end Saturday’s Race 1. Le Broq found much better luck, turning his 15th position into the grid around after a Lap 6 Safety Car which saw him earn track position and maintain a place within the top 10 for most of the 40-lap race, ending the day in 6th place and making him the highest finisher amongst the Tickford Racing fleet. That same Lap 6 Safety car worked to hinder Courtney, dropping to 16th after the Lap 6 pit stop. Blitzing the field, James finished not too far behind his Tickford co-driver in 8th place. Cam reflected on his Race 1 mishap “Pretty good day to start with, obviously the pole was pretty cool. I got a pretty good start and just settled into the rhythm, and two laps before that Safety Car I kind of felt the power steering start to go, and as the Safety Car came out it pretty well completely failed by that point. I think it was just the power steering pump failed, I’m not 100 per cent sure why yet, but a massive shame. We had a pacey car and I think we were on for a podium, 100 per cent, in that race. We win together, we lose together as a team, and there’s nothing really we could’ve done about that. It was a brand new pump with a brand new race car, which you would have thought reliability would be 100 per cent. We’ll regroup overnight and we’ll try and bounce back tomorrow.”
With Race 1 in the books, the boys had a chance to make up some ground on Sunday with Race 2. Eager to make up for his disappointing Saturday, Waters managed 3rd place in Sunday’s qualifying session with a 2m04.68s, earning him a place in the Top 10 Shootout which saw him earn 2nd place to on the grid to start out Race 2. Courtney also found a place on in the Top Ten shoutout, qualifying 7th with a 2m05.28s, which saw him ultimately maintain that place. Le Broq struggled to find himself in the shootout yet again, managing 13th place in Sunday’s qualifying round. The drama from Saturday’s Race 1 carried over to Sunday, with lady luck focusing on James Courtney this time round. Crashing out of 7th place swiping the wall on the way up the mountain in the 10th lap and limping the No.44 Mustang back to the pits, it was confirmed the car would need a full rebuild before the next race, ending Courtney’s weekend on a low. Waters on the other hand, managed to turn Saturday’s luck around in dramatic fashion, turning his 2nd place grid position into 1st after overtaking Van Gisbergen in the No.97 Commodore on the very first corner. A pit stop at the end of the 15th lap saw Waters lose the lead to Van Gisbergen, but his weekend still ended on an absolute high with a 2nd place podium finish. Le Broq ended Race 2 in 19th place, needing medical attention at the end of the race due to burns at the bottom of his foot.
Post-race, Cam Waters shared his thoughts "It's an awesome way to start the year, the car rolled out really good in practice.” "We've been fine-tuning it and getting it a little bit nicer.” "She was pretty sketchy then, nice and slippery, got through [Turn 1] had a little mistake, just tried to do a clean lap after that.” Ultimately sharing his excitement with his outstanding start to the season "Super pumped to start on pole again."
With the Repco Mt Panorama 500 in the books, Cam finds himself in good position to open the season, placing 6th on the Driver’s Championship ladder with 183 points. Jack finished the season-opener not far from Cam, placing 9th on the ladder with 150 points. James managed to rack up some points before his race-ending mishap, placing 23rd with 90 points. This leaves Tickford Racing in 4th place in the Dunlop Teams Championship with 273 points, and the Tickford-backed Truck Assist Racing with an 8th placing on the ladder.
Next up on the 2021 Supercars Championship calendar is the Penrite Oil Sandown SuperSprint at Melbourne’s Sandown International Motor Raceway, running on the 20th and 21st of March.
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