SATURDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2009
SIMONSEN TAKES TOP TEN V8 SUPERCAR FINISH AT THE ISLAND
As one of the most versatile and busy GT sportscar racers in the world, Danish star Allan Simonsen has had to make some hard decisions.

Do I race only in Europe, like he has all year in a successful Le Mans Series program with Hankook-Farnbacher Racing or do I fly to Australia to race with the best V8 Supercar team in the world, and a strong prospect of winning both the Phillip Island 500 and the Bathurst 1000?

It was a commitment he'd made very early in the season when he received the phone call from Roland Dane.

In 2007, he made the trip down under for the second year in a row to join Triple Eight Race Engineering and Team Vodafone at the Aussie enduros.

Teamed with ex-Japanese GT500 champ Richard Lyons, the pair fought a strong battle at Mt. Panorama, Bathurst, to bring their Ford Falcon V8 Supercar home in fifth place.

His Vodafone team mates Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes went on to win the blue riband event.


The year prior he'd also had a top ten finish on the cards until a plastic bag became lodged at the front of the car causing engine temperatures to skyrocket, forcing an unscheduled pit.

Simonsen and Thompson – the only international pairing for the enduros
Fast forward three years and here we are again, but the scenario has changed. His 2009 LMS campaign has been strong but must be looked at as a development season for his main sponsors, the South Korean tyre giant, Hankook, who have taken on the established tyres manufacturers, Michelin and Dunlop in their home territory.

For 2009, at V8 Supercar races, Allan has the services of one very talented and likeable guy - James Thompson, who has two British Touring Car titles to his name along with a World Touring Car championship.

Team Vodafone currently lead the V8 Supercar Championship, with Jamie Whincup and they won both enduros last year, along with the championship. Everything is in place for a great result for the two and only international drivers, paired together.
Simonsen and Thompson first tasted the 2009-spec FG Ford Falcon V8 Supercar, August 31 and September 2, at the teams official test track, Queensland Raceway. The focus was on getting a comfortable enduro setup that would work for both drivers and the allow them to become aquainted with the new machinery.

And so, onto the event – Friday was spent giving both drivers a taste of the PI circuit along with over 20 others that had no prior V8 Supercar experience at this venue. Running full fuel loads and used tyres, Simonsen was only a second off the fastest car, which ran fresh rubber and a light load. Thompson, who had not driven a rear wheel drive race car for many years, was less than a second behind – a gap he would close in Saturday's qualifying.
The powers-to-be at Australian V8 Supercars have being trying to simplify race formats in an attempt to help fans understand just what is going on.

Early in year they introduced an "option" tyre, that was a lot quicker than the standard tyre, but suffered faster drop-off. To help fans determine if a car had the OT's on, they had yellow sidewalls. But the yellow stuff fell off and no one had a clue what was what. Slow drivers were all of a sudden challenging for a race lead only to go backwards several laps later. It certainly added some action but also major confusion.

The enduro races do not allow the OT. It's just a simple 500km race and a 1000km one. Well, not that its that simple.

But what's this? More changes for the fans?

Let me explain. So after the three practice sessions on Friday, there was a practice session for Driver A (Simonsen) and then for B (Thompson), on Saturday morning. That was followed by a qualifying session for A and then B. On Saturday afternoon, there is a 14 lap driver A race, with a compulsory pit stop where two tyres must be changed. Next the B driver race, with no pitstop. Add the A and B race results/times and there you have the 500km grid. Simple eh? Hang on – they've now just said either driver can elect to do the pitstop, but A will be the preference I guess, to get it out of the way. Only after the lead car has done five laps. Clear now?

So, Allan took P17 in qual A (1.34.1150), with James, 20th in qual B (1.34.5294). What that tells you is just how close they are to each other and how fast Thompson has come to grips with the Falcon.

A World Touring Car Champion and a champion touring the world – that's James and Allan.
Simonsen lined up on the outside part of the track on grid 17 and made a great start, moving to 14th by the time he'd got out of turn 2.

Up front the start was hairy, with Steve Johnson stalling his Falcon from P3. Amazingly everyone cleared the striken car without a drama.

Meanwhile Allan was applying the blowtorch to Cameron McConville's Holden, perhaps trying to tell him to stop driving his Maranello Motorsport Ferrari whilst he's in Europe!

Todd Kelly was now in the lead, with Allan's Vodafone team mate Craig Lowndes directly behind.

Allan elevated to 13th on lap 8 and would wittle down the opposition to finish an excellent 10th.

The front battle would go down to the wire with Kelly holding on for the win, from Lowndes and Holden's lead driver Will Davison.

James Thompson will now have pit duties in the B race, since Allan was not called in.

Allan was upbeat after the race: "I had a great start and it was one of those things that had been worrying me having not done a standing start for a while now.

"The car ran well, our setup good, but the engine temperature went up about 10 degrees causing a loss of power that made passing harder. Never the less starting 17th and finishing 10th in 14 laps, equates to passing a careevery 2nd lap.

"I'm really looking forward to tomorrows 500km race now."