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Tyres lasted longer than I predicted

The Creek has never pulled huge crowds, but it is always the V8 diehards who do turn up.

I had predicted before the event at Sydney Motorsport Park that they would last only 10 laps, as the (formerly Eastern Creek) circuit is notoriously hard on tyres, just like Phillip Island.

Ten laps is pretty much how long they lasted when we did a race run at the official test day in January 2011. But I suppose there were lots of factors that contributed to the longevity of the tyres last weekend. For a start, track temperatures were lower than in January and the newly resurfaced track has smoother tarmac and fewer sharp stones which means less ripping of the soft tyre.

We have also improved the car to look after the tyres since then and I've improved my knowledge of the limits of the tyre and how to budget wear. The car was exceptional on Saturday and did everything I needed it to do to look after the soft tyre. We ended up getting 23 laps out of it which was actually more than we had expected.

In the second Saturday practice session we did a race run to see where the tyre was at and how hard I could push it before it burred up. We only had an eight-lap run before an oil spill shortened the session, but it gave us a good insight into how much pace we could get out of it. We thought it would be good for about 20 laps. 

I talked with JJ (race engineer Jeromy Moore) and we believed we could get better life than nearly everyone else so we gambled on pitting early. Then it was a matter of how I nursed it to the end.

The Creek has some really fast long-loading corners and you need to preserve the tyre in those sections. Also, like Phillip Island, the front right-hand tyre cops all the punishment, so you have to be mindful of not scrubbing the tyre going into corners just for the sake of a millisecond of pace. It was an amazing result to come from sixth to the top step of the podium.

Of course, we handed over all our data to the other side of the garage at the end of the day and on the Sunday my teammate Jamie Whincup basically ran our Saturday race to win. We also had a faulty rattlegun in the first pit stop which lost us a couple of seconds which we never got back. We were running at exactly the same pace as Jamie, but we just couldn't make inroads and still preserve our tyres.

In the end I was happy with the weekend and pulling about 100 points out of the gap to first. There's now only 154 points between first and fourth and I'm breathing down Will Davison's neck for third. I was also pretty happy with the crowd of 24,000-odd for the return to Eastern Creek.

It's a proper permanent racing circuit and there are precious few of them left in the country, so we need to keep it on the calendar. The Creek has never pulled huge crowds, but they are always the V8 diehards and it was very hectic with the fans in the pits. Everyone I spoke to was talking about how great it was to have the circuit back on the calendar.