Jason Plato's Bathurst diary: Friday

In the third of his Bathurst installments, Jason tells of his frustration at a qualifying session that didn't go to plan, vents his anger at the backmarkers and recalls a lucky escape from the unforgiving walls of Mount Panorama

Jason Plato's Bathurst diary: Friday

This game can be bloody frustrating at times. I went out first on wets while it was soaking, and the times were all right, well in the top six at the time. Then it started to dry, so I came in for slicks and had my first dry run. I did three or four reasonably quick laps in the 2m15s bracket while it still wasn't 100% dry. Then I hit a load of backmarker cars, so I decided to come into the pits to give Yvan [Muller, my team-mate] a go.

Then a red flag appears, so Yvan can't go out. He goes out...and another red flag brings him back in. Now I'm worried that we're losing valuable time. So while I'm twitching in the pits, raring to go, Yvan is out there and lapping miles off the pace. So I tell the team 'I'm your best chance, I need to be out there now', and eventually they pull him in.

Off I go on new tyres and I got stuck in, balls well out of the window. I'm on for a good time...red flag, lap wiped. While we were stuck in the pits we have a quick look at the data and reckon it was going to be a 2m12s, which would've been top five territory. I go out again...and this time it pisses with rain. So we lost every lap, except for my early run, and we're 19th on the grid.

The plan for qualifying was to run the slowest 50% of the grid in the first period of qualifying and the quick guys in the second one. But, because of the rain, we were all lumped together. Fifty-five cars in one session, and twenty are being driven by complete arseholes. They're just spearing off the track every five minutes, and all the good times were done when Yvan was out, while I was sat in the pits. When they're not going off, they're weaving about in front of you - I doubt that some have the mental capacity to be aware of faster cars coming up behind them.

I'm not having a go at Yvan for being slow, it's just that he hasn't had the time in the car or been around here before. I know where the grip is when it's dry 'cos I've raced here before - at least I had half a chance of setting a quick time.

If it had stayed dry, we would've been top 10. If it had stayed wet, I still think we would've been top 10, because both Yvan and me had set top five times in the morning practice when it was raining. In hindsight I should have stayed in the car, done a time to make sure we're at the sharp end, and then handed the car to Yvan at the end.

Time was running out and we knew the rain was coming, and looking at the data I knew I had to improve under brakes coming through Skyline before the infamous 'Dipper'. I had to brake 30m later, so I took a good bite out of it. I got sideways and immediately thought "I'm in the wall here unless I go through the gravel trap". So into the gravel I go, and it just launches me skywards. Then I'm scooting towards one wall, rescued that, then I'm sideways towards the other wall, rescued that too. Then the circuit goes left into the Dipper, which I go down sideways and just rescue that, and I'm finally back in shape 200 yards later, luckily without hitting a thing.

Although we've not set anything on fire, I still think we're in decent shape for the race. It's not over, because last year's winner only started two places ahead of us. It's not going to stay dry all weekend, and there's going to be a rash of Safety Car periods. I don't care if the leaders bugger off at the start, we'll peg them back under the Safety Car, but more about our race tactics tomorrow.

Jason Plato

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