After a disappointing start to the weekend, Dean Canto & Mark Winterbottom were looking for improvement and a better finish to the first round of the Pirtek Endurance Cup.
Dean: “Getting a good result wasn’t going to be an easy task as we were starting 24th but it’s a long race and we knew the weather would play a part. If we could manage the strategy well, we knew the car would be strong so there was potential of a good result.”
Prodrive followed the field, with all teams starting their co-drivers first. Dean made an excellent start and was in 17th position at the end of the first lap. The first lap saw a major accident when a deflated tyre sent a car into the fence causing the stewards to red flag the race.
After the race resumed, Dean had good pace and started moving up through the field. When he came in on Lap 34 for tyres, he had made his way up to P12. The team made a call to come in for tyres & fuel to get Dean out of traffic and give him clear air. Shortly after, the heavens opened and light rain began to fall on the track. The team had the tough call of pitting Dean for wets, like the majority of the field did, or stay on slicks. If they had pitted for wets they would’ve been a lap down but Dean was comfortable with his times & the rain was only light so they took the risk & stayed out.
That risk paid off as the rain didn’t stick around for long and it wasn’t long before the times swung in favour of the slick tyres & Dean’s lap times were 5 seconds quicker than the guys on wets. Dean picked the cars off one by one & within 6 laps he’d moved from 10th to 4th.
Dean: “Although it was wet on the edges, there was still a definite dry line. I was really enjoying driving in those conditions & wasn’t taking any risks. I made sure I stayed off the kerbs as I’d watched a few of the other guys get caught out by them.”
Around Lap 51, the rain started to fall again & it was particularly wet on Turn 4. On Lap 55, as Dean came around Turn 4, Ash Walsh, who was on wets, made a move up the inside. Dean left him room, to avoid contact, but it meant he was on the outside of the corner and the wettest part of the track. There wasn’t enough grip on for a slick tyre and it sent him straight into the tyre wall.
Dean: “It was so frustrating from my point of view. I was minimising risk and left Ash room because I didn’t want to make contact and bend the steering or get turned around. I didn’t realise how much water had fallen on that corner though and I turned the wheel but the car just went straight. It was the slowest off I’ve ever had. The grass was wet & I couldn’t get the car out so I had to just sit & wait to be recovered out and our day was done.”
The recovery vehicle got Dean off the grass and he was able to get it back to the pits where the team repaired some of the damage & Mark jumped in the car. When they rejoined the field they were two laps down. They finished the race in a disappointing 23rd.
Dean: “It was a tough weekend all round. The good news was the car was strong for the race & it’s a good lead up into Bathurst. Unfortunately this has hurt Mark’s championship campaign but we’ll just focus on Bathurst now. Hopefully we can have more consistency across the whole event and a much better result.”
The next round of the Pirtek Endurance Cup is the Bathurst 1000 from October 6th to 9th.