MONDAY 24 OCTOBER 2011
GOLD COAST 600 CALL UP GIVES ALLAN SPRINT RACE EXPERIENCE
Allan was quite content to be back in Denmark to spend some time with his family. The last six weeks had been hectic including two long trips to Australia, culiminating with his best ever performance at the Bathurst 1000, with a splendid third place.

It is a remarkable feat considering Allan is only international driver to have stood on the Bathurst podium in the history of V8 Supercars, since John Cleland came second in 2001.

Prior, in 1997, Swedish driver Rickard Rydell, won driving a Volvo S40, with Jim Richards, which was the final Super Tourer event ever held there.
It would almost be six weeks before Allan would have to make another trip down under to join his old friend Ted Huglin for Island Magic in his new Lamborghini LP560. That would make a total of five trips in a year - Bathurst 12 Hour, Pepsi Max V8 Supercar testing, Phillip Island 500, Bathurst 1000 and Island Magic. So now it was time for a well earnt sleep in, without the hassle of getting up at 4am to fly somewhere. Yes, it was time for a rest.

4am. The phone is ringing. It must be one of my mates in Australia who can never get the time change right, though Allan. 6am. The phone is ringing again and its full of messages. And terrible news. Briton Dan Wheldon, who Allan has raced against in the European World Karting Championships in 1996/7, had been tragically killed at the Las Vegas Superspeedway in the final invitational race. And his death had some far reaching consequences.

Dan was to join James Courtney in the HRT #1 V8 Supercar the following weekend at the Gold Coast (Indy) 600 at Surfers Paradise. The event is unique in that it is a third co-driver event of the season, yet considered two 300km sprint rounds. A co-driver could not be one that had entered the enduro rounds, being PI500 and Bathurst. The driver line up was highly varied, from sportscar stars like Jan Magnussen and Patrick Long, to current and ex-F1 drivers Antonio Liuzzi and Sebastien Bordais, along with a NASCAR road course specialist, Boris Said. And many others. Many from IndyCar.

However the sudden tragedy that had befallen the motorsport world has taken its toll elsewhere. Will Power was injured and Tony Kanaan could not face the trip to Australia in light of the saddest news.

At first FPR called yours truly (the writer) to get a hold of Allan - could he team up with Mark Winterbottom? The enduro pairing rules were now relaxed to allow Allan a start the following weekend. Cue the 4am call. By 6am Allan had got the messages and called Kelly Racing to get clearance. But by that time the FPR seat had gone. One seat was left, with Jason Bargwanna in the Jana Living Commodore, run by Brad Jones Racing alongside the Jason Bright BOC / Karl Reindler cars.

Within six hours Allan was airborne out of Copenhagen.

It was Monday afternoon and it would be early Wednesday morning before he would arrive at Brisbane airport, an hour away from the planned test session at Ipswich's Queensland Raceway.

By 9.30am he was lapping the circuit and for the first time, on the soft option tyre, something he'd yet to have tried. And he liked it.

The day was mainly a familairisation day for co-drivers and to allow teams to practice pitstops and driver changes. For Allan it was second nature. He'd just done Bathurst!

Jason Bargwanna is about 5 foot 2 inches. Allan in 6 foot. That creates a difficulty changing drivers since the belts and seats are far more complex than a road car.

Practice makes perfect they say and Thursday was dedicated to pitstop practice and walking the shortened Indy street circuit.

Rewinding to 2005, Allan took a round victory at Surfers Paradise, in the V8 Ute Championship, on his debut attempt, and also a Nations Cup class win in a Ferrari, so he had some knowledge of the track to bring along to the team.


The long and the short of it.
Pitstop practice was vital.


Allan, along with the other drivers, ran
tribute decals in memory of Dan Wheldon.

There were two co-driver practice sessions on Friday, with Allan taking the first one to refamilairise himself with the updated track. Setup was clearly not right but the second set of tyres did yield an improvemnet, putting him into 11th place.

Jason was on qualifying duties and as luck would have it, like at Bathurst, the rain came down on his warm up lap, leaving him in a very distant 26th place.

Allan started the first race, and moved up to hand the car over to Jason in a very respectable 12th position, after 34 laps, being the minimum co-driver distance allowed.

A quick and efficient pitstop ensued and Jason was away, now in 10th place, thanks to others stopping on lap 34. However the setup was not ideal and he struggled finishing the Saturday afternoon 300km race in 17th.

Another day. Another qualifying session and this time Jason improved to 24th place. Allan again would take the start. But as the grid cleared for the warmup lap the car would not fire up – it had been a niggling problem all weekend. With the car pushed to the pits the BJR crew wiggled the ECU plug and the car started.

That forced Allan to start from the pitlane – not ideal, but sometimes it avoids the first chicane mess that is so regular at Indy.

Allan was moved through the field quickly and up to 15th place. However, all was not well at race control.

The circuit had for the first time been fitted with electronic curb sensors to determine if a car short-cut a chicane or corner, something that happens regularly at Indy. But the system was untested and unreliable. Half the field were hit with irrational penalties and had the team bosses fuming. Allan was given with a drive through for an alleged breach.

"It's the worst ruling I've seen in all my years of racing, said Allan.

"Fortunately, there were forteen other cars recieving the same drive through penalty so it minimised our damage. And then the late race safety car pulled the field back together anyway."

Allan pitted as the safety car came out in P5 and Jason was in. Three laps later, anothere saftey car. Suddenly Jason was in the lead! But his tyres were spent and he dropped quickly down the field to finish the race in 17th, as he had done on Saturday.

Many thanks to Brad Jones Racing and the entire team for inviting me to be part of the Gold Coast 600. A special thank you must go to V8 Supercars, for acknowledging my credentials as an international driver and letting me mix it up with the other invited superstars.