What with copping a drive-through penalty, stuffing up a start and double stacking in the pits, I'm quite surprised I've come away from the Phillip Island round having closed the gap on the front runners in the championship.
That wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Jamie (Whincup) and Will (Davison) crashing out of Saturday's race. Despite the points gain it was still a disappointing weekend for me because we were capable of so much more. In qualifying on Saturday Jamie and I were sitting first and second until the last 90 seconds when we got shuffled back by Fords to seventh and eighth.
We were happy with our car speed and our progress through the race until I ran into the back of Jason Bright and copped the drive-through penalty. I admit it was my mistake as I misjudged the braking zone and I know Jason realises I didn't mean to do it. Unfortunately it punted Jason off the track and the stewards had to give me a drive-through penalty.
What annoys me is that there seems to have been a fair bit of inconsistency in the penalties handed out over the weekend where there was a lot of biff and barge, much of which was intentional not accidental like mine. We redeemed ourselves on Sunday with pole position only to unravel all the good work right at the start. Fans might not realise just how difficult it is to launch these cars off the line.
Getting the right revs and operating the line locker (handbrake) are the easy parts; it's getting the feel for the clutch and how much load to give it that is difficult. You can either load the clutch too much and stall or break into wheelspin, or like I did, you don't load the clutch enough and get clutch slip and no initial launch. The difference between the two is very marginal. It's something that is now on my agenda to work on.
The bad start shuffled me out of the top 10, but we had good speed and the car was looking after the tyres well so we managed to work our way up to sixth very quickly. Then the safety car came out about lap eight which was way too early and everyone headed for the pits. Because Jamie was in front of us, we had to double stack while he got new tyres and a fuel top-up. The wait cost me at least a dozen places. It was the same for other drivers with two cars in their team.
I don't know where we came out in the field - probably as far back as 20th - but I just put my head down and gave it absolutely everything I had. The car was really well set up. It was fast, it looked after the tyres and did everything I wanted and needed it to do. Unfortunately we ran out of laps. A couple more and we could have caught Will and scored the win. That would have made me equal with Skaifey on wins at the Island.
You could say it's the one that got away from us, yet for me it was still a satisfying race. We gave it our best shot and in the end I'm delighted with the result. We now have a month's break before the next round in Darwin, but we won't be sitting around doing nothing. It's one of those parts of the year where we don't do a lot of racing but we do have a test day and a couple of ride days so we will still be doing a fair bit of driving. And I'll definitely be working on those starts.