MONDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 2011
PHILLIP ISLAND ENDURO PROVIDES PERFECT BATHURST SHAKEDOWN
Clearly it was going to be a very busy time of year with Allan Simonsen getting out of his Le Mans Series Ferrari and climbing aboard a Qantas A380, complete with his favourite carbon fibre seats, for a fleeting visit to Australia.

It was Allans fourth trip Down Under this year and it wouldn't be his last before he'd sitting down for a christmas dinner of roast duck, in his family home town of Odense.

As a regular traveller, Allan adapts well to sudden change, like variable weather conditions and unbalanced tyre combinations he comes across so regularly. In less than 48 hours he'd be in the stunningly livered Pepsi Max Commodore V8 Supercar at Phillip Island .
Following his strong top ten result at Bathurst last year, his co-driver, Greg Murphy, asked Allan to partner him again for the two ever important long distance races. Murphy had changed teams from Paul Morris Motorsport, where he ran the the Castrol livered car, to Kelly Racing with backing from Pepsi Max.

In fact it almost was full time gardening leave for Murphy, who by seasons end found himself without a drive. Only the protracted fight that surrounded Dick Johnson Racing, their ownership and James Courtney's defection to Holden collectively saved the day, in a most convoluted way. Pepsi was thought to have put a deal together with Courtney only for it to get pulled at the last minute when he signed for HRT. Rumours say that Pepsi even manufactured a large volume of soft drink cans with JC's head on it!

Murph jumped at the Pepsi gig and Allan was quickly retained, something that is quite rare in enduro pairing – to have a next year deal completed so early.

Allan is a highly sort after co-driver, one that instantly integrates himself within a team and is accutely aware that his role is to support Greg, not compete with him.

Under clear skies, practice got underway, the team gaving Allan a good chunk of session time to refamiliarise himself with the workings of a 2011 Supercar. Even though he'd participated in a test session at Winton a couple of months earlier, it was vital he spend some effort on practice starts, considering all of his overseas sportscar races involved rolling starts.

Whilst most of practice was done on older tyres, the team bolted on fresh Dunlops to turn in 1.34.4. This was improved by 0.3 sec and placed him in P19, which in context was still ahead of regulars like Steve Richards and the most consistent racer of the year, who has completed every race lap this year – Steve Johnson @ DJR.

The highly confusing A and B qualifying races were once again being used, where one driver pits, the other doesn't, the sum of results create the 500km race grid. (for a full analysis read last years PI500 wrap up here).

After a solid start, then the mandatory pit, Allan finished 23rd but since some cars pit and others don't, the 14 lap race result is not gauge of ability or race pace.

Conversely, Greg finished a valuable 3rd place in his qualifying race, which set the pairing up for a P8 main race start.

Allan was the nominated start driver and despite dropping a couple of places as the lights went green, was quickly on the pace and running harder than the four top line cars in front of him.

Catching is one thing, passing another.

Allan relates his passing strategy: "I was looking for a way around the three guys in front of me (Jason Bright, Michael Caruso, Steve Owen) and I had really good speed down the chute and into Turn One.

"As I was exiting Turn Two, in the Southern Loop, I put a wheel up on the kerb and as I came down to T3, found the brake pedal go to the floor. I'd forgotten to pump the pedal to counteract the knockoff.

"Unfortunately I locked up and had to use the exit road to pull up before rejoining."

Brake knockoff occurs when the pistons retract and do not have the pads sitting hard upgainst them, which means no brake pedal on the first application. It's a common thing, but one needs to be very aware of it. Something that does not happen with modern sportscars.

Allan rejoined in 20th, but the balance had gone away. After pitting, he was back on the older tyres from yesterday – not so quick but not so flatspotted!

Allan pitted at the end of his double stint and Greg got in silghtly early, thanks to the arrival of two rare waterbirds, who choose that moment to walk across the track, triggering a safety car.

Murph drove a long stint, saving the best tyres for the inevitable saftey car that religiously appears towards the end of an enduro.

It did , however, not eventuate and the team finished in 13th place.

Three weeks away is the 'Grand Final' of Australian motorsport at Mount Panorama, Bathurst and you'd have to be unluckly to have such a relatively pedestian race, such as what was the L&H 500.

You can be sure the Bathurst 1000 will end in a 6 lap sprint!

It happens just about every year so everyone will be keeping an eye on their valuable tyre bank.

Back to the airport and onto the A380, for a trip back to Monaco, do the washing and head off to Estoril in the EVO-9 for the final round of the 2011 Le Mans Series, where he and Dominik Farnbacher hold a slender 3 point gap in the GT-E class, where their aim is to take the runner up position, after the category was decided last week at Silverstone when Gimi Bruni and Giancarlo Fisiclella took the lollies.