Sitting second and seventh on the Supercars championship table would be a happy place for most touring car teams.
But the Red Bull Holden Racing Team is not just another team.
Winning is deeply embedded in the DNA of Holden’s factory squad and the relentless search for success will trigger an aggressive comeback plan in Darwin.
After an underwhelming performance through the second sprint meeting at Sydney Motorsport Park, team manager Mark Dutton is promising quicker cars and punchy strategy in the Top End.
“Hopefully we will roll out fast cars and get the strategy a bit better than we did at SMP2. We definitely had a better show at SMP1,” Dutton tells Race News.
“That hurts. We had time to improve, and we didn’t.
“The cars weren’t that bad, but we did over-step the mark on strategy.”
Dutton admits the tactical errors in Sydney, as well as cars which were not quick enough to challenge the Ford Mustangs, and his only (small) defence is a mechanical problem on Jamie Whincup’s Commodore that was not discovered until the team returned to base in Brisbane.
“In SMP1 we scored the second-most points and in SMP2 we didn’t. We always want to score the most points, but if we can’t then we want to be the next-best.
“On Saturday, in the night race with no Safety Cars, we thought we should have been in a position to win. But we didn’t.
“The cars weren’t that bad. But we overstepped the mark.
“We did recover OK, but we’re not in the business of OK.”
After the long haul to Hidden valley, Dutton is confident that the shortcomings from Sydney have been addressed and there is more speed to come.
“We’ve worked pretty hard to make sure the prep was even better, not that it was lacking before. We’ll roll out with some test items on both cars. We’ve got a really clear test plan. We are trying to maximise the running for both cars in the short amount of test time. You hope the culmination of what you test on each of the cars works as a combined package.”
Dutton and his crew have worked hard on tactics for Hidden Valley and he says things will be easier with a mixed allocation of hard and soft-compound Dunlops, but only hard rubber for qualifying.
“The strategy is a little bit different this weekend because you have to use hard tyres for qualifying. That makes it a little bit easier. It should simplify the equation.
GOING FOR BROKE
The go-for-broke strategy is likely to produce another upset winner in Darwin, according to Dutton.
“There are some cars that put all their eggs in one basket. And, really, they should. The reward could be so great.
“I think what we’ve seen from the last few weekends is someone who goes for the win. You should see some people going for Saturday glory.
“We can’t do that, we’re not that sort of team, and we’re in championship contention. (We’re looking for) a win, a really good result, and one that you fight to see how high you can go. That’s how you get the most points.
THE TRIPLE CHALLENGE
Dutton is welcoming the change to the way the Triple Crown is awarded in Darwin.
It’s now a cumulative contest, with the prize going to the best driver over three races.
“I think it’s fantastic that the category is acknowledging a round winner. It’s not stand-alone races now, every one has an effect on the others,” he says.
“It’s definitely right, I believe, to reward the round winner. It’s happening this weekend, which is good, and it probably should have happened for the two events at Sydney Motorsport Park.”
DOING DOUBLE DUTY
The travelling team from Triple Eight Race Engineering is heavily into double-up duty through 2020.
While other teams can concentrate completely on their championship campaign, the Brisbane-based engineering outfit is also heavily commitment to the next generation of Supercars racers.
“We’re doing a lot of design work on the Gen3 car. That takes some balancing,” says Dutton.
“We’ve got to balance our time, because there is no other team doing that. That’s the engineers, JJ (technical director Jeromy Moore) and myself.”
Despite the rushed departure to Darwin, Dutton says time on the road brings a surprising upside.
“This has been a good opportunity, up here, to crack on a bit with Gen3. So we’re doing more, and different, to the other teams.”