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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Sports/Touring Car Racing Topics:  ING Australian Grand Prix


Ross Stone
Stone Brothers Racing
April 7, 2009

After the big job of building the new Ford Falcon FG model cars and having an interrupted test day with rain previous to Clipsal we were a little bit under done going into Adelaide. Then to have an engine failure on Alex’s car after three laps was really disappointing.

The engine failure could have been avoided as it was having a pressure problem because of oil surge, which we could have fixed. We could see the warnings on the pit telemetry but the car radio wasn’t receiving from the time it left pit lane, the in-car warning parameters for the oil pressure were set too high so we were in a situation where we were watching the car go around tearing up an engine.

That session was always going to be really important for Alex to learn the circuit and get mileage in his new FG so we couldn’t have made it any harder for him and ourselves in the beginning.

We call it 7-a-side racing now because you are only allowed 7 people per car at race meetings excluding team owners, catering, commercial etc, so at one stage Jimmy and I were heads down helping change the engine. As team owners Jimmy and I are not counted in the 7 rule but are still allowed to work on the cars as could some of the other team owners but that is a sight I’d like to see!

Alex judges himself harder than any driver I’ve seen, so we had to work together to get the mileage out of the weekend. I thought he did a really good job in qualifying with the minimum laps he had to learn the place, then in the first race he did a great job to bring it home 15th.

Post race Alex’s foot was really sore after having to push the brake pedal so hard but he was okay for Sunday. In Race 2 he was making good progress but when closely following another car he hit the same tyre bundle as the car he was behind and we lost time due to damage on the front bar.

Alex got news of his baby arriving on the Thursday morning at Clipsal and he quickly worked out that while he could have got back to Melbourne to see Lily it was going to put too much pressure on him and I really admired him for that. As hard as Alex is on himself there is absolutely no pressure on him from the team as we know how difficult these cars are to drive and while Hamilton won’t be easy for him, I am sure by the time we have our next test day he will be where he wants to be on track.

Shane and his engineer, Paul Forgie, are developing really good chemistry between them and they made good progress with the car in practice and qualifying. They felt along with all of us that they should have easily been in the top ten for the shootout, but due to a last minute change that didn’t work we could only manage 11th. We felt unlucky with his starting place on the grid but knew we would have good speed in the races and this proved to be the case.

In Race 1 Shane displayed his developing passing skills and car control as he worked hard to finish in 6th.

For Race 2 Shane again had to go back to starting in 11th position and he and his car were certainly quick enough to finish well but just after middle distance following a safety car period the engine must have back-fired bending a throttle butterfly. So from there Shane did a good job to finish where he did as the throttle would return alright but the engine RPM didn’t drop below 3500revs.

Under the new pit stop rule the crew did a great job, all our stops went to plan with good rhythm and no mistakes so we hope to continue that trend as we head toHamilton.

I have been quite open in my feelings that the new qualifying format rule is a dud. I felt that our TV supporters watching the races at home wouldn’t understand the rule and without doubt this has been confirmed with the new rule since being turned around to reflect a new qualifying format.

Commencing at Hamilton Saturday qualifying will remain the same for Saturday’s race but now there will be a 20 minute qualifying session on Sunday an hour before the race which we are much happier with. The new Sunday qualifying finishes approx one hour before the race with the intention I think to stop some teams running qualifying car set-ups.

We worked at Clipsal all day on the following Monday and then loaded up so the trucks could get across to Melbourne. The team flew in on Tuesday and then were straight back into set up and maintenance of the cars on Wednesday at the AGP.

First of all it was good to get Shane into his first ever shootout at the AGP, I am sure there will be a lot more to come. Shane again had a quick car and certainly drove it at 100% which is the way Jimmy, I and the team like to go racing.

Unbelievably Alex lost another engine due to no fault of his own in the first practice session, but after the change he managed to move forward all weekend. In between races he made changes with his engineer, Wes McDougall, which led to them making good progress for the rest of the race meeting.

We felt a bit frustrated with the engine problems we experienced as did the guys in the engine shop but these things happen and we are working together to make sure they don’t happen again. Last year we went the whole season without changing an engine at the track so to have to change two in the first couple of race meetings was really disappointing.

On return from Clipsal and the AGP we had minimal damage so that has given us the opportunity to prepare the cars in reasonable time while building our spares and paying particular attention to making sure the brake package for Hamilton is the best we can provide.

In the lead up to Hamilton we have to have the cars at Brisbane airport on Easter Monday morning and on the same day all the spare parts containers will get picked up from the workshop. I am really looking forward to Hamilton as Shane was strong there last year. Work has been done on the street circuit, particularly on the chicane to open it up a bit which should make for better racing. Alex has been racing professionally for a while and we expect he will learn the track pretty quickly so we are looking for a good solid weekend from the team.

Shane who turns 20 in May went to bed late last year and woke up the next morning a different person because he really has good understanding now of what is needed on how to drive and develop these cars. He is often around the workshop and engine shop spending time with the team which is good to see.

Alex is a bit of a perfectionist so his wardrobe in the truck for is driving suits and gear is immaculate while Shane manages to have stuff from the cupboard to the top of the stairs, so that’s an area he can work on but the good thing for SBR is the two drivers while both competitive look to me like they are going to work really well together. Maybe even well enough to pair up for the enduros . . . .

Thanks for your support!

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