Jason Plato's Bathurst diary: Saturday

In the penultimate of his Bathurst installments, Plato gives us his thoughts on what the weather is going to do, how his aeronautical knowledge will steal a march on his rivals and an exclusive sneak preview what tactics the works HRT team are going to employ on the number two Holden Commodore

Jason Plato's Bathurst diary: Saturday

Did I mention it's been raining here this week? Well, guess what? It still is, only harder than ever! Non-stop, from seven in the morning and it's still going now. The locals can't believe it - they say they've never seen anything like it. To a man, they say they've never had seven days of rain, ever.

The top 10 Shoot-Out was a bit of a farce. The track was waterlogged and people were just flinging their cars off. I was obviously spectating which, to be honest, I was quite pleased about! It didn't look that pleasant out there.

We had an hour of practice in the morning, but the rain was torrential. We took it easy, scrubbed in a few sets of wets and practiced driver changes, which we got down to 11s, while a few of the others stuffed their cars in the wall. Yvan [Muller, Jason's team-mate]'s a little bit chubbier than me, or rather I'm a bit of a skinny bloke! He's got a bit more meat around his waist so, rather than use inserts in the seats at every stop, I've got an inflatable bladder behind the small of the back. The lap belts are a bit loose for me, and tight for Yvan, but it's a happy medium. We're about the same, so it's not a problem.

Last night the team changed everything on the car so we've got a new engine, diff, gearbox, uprights, driveshafts, you name it. We double-checked everything, and found a warped brake disc, which was good because that would've been nasty in the race. We've got another warm-up tomorrow and we're all set to go with no bent panels which, let me tell you, not everyone can say.

Our plan for the race is this. If it's dry, I'll start, do the middle stint and finish. If it's wet, Yvan 'Fruit Corner' will start and I'll finish, because we plan to have one less stint if it's wet, which looks certain. In fact, our strategy is based around it raining all day, because we're going to run around off the pace and use less fuel than in the dry. We have to make three fuel stops by lap 120.

Assuming the race goes the full distance, that leaves us with a final stint of 41 laps. We can't do 41 laps on a tank, I can't tell you by exactly how much, but it's not a lot. So, we'll be gambling on a Safety Car, or save fuel ourselves, or make a last-minute splash and dash. It's going to be a canny game, and I'm sure others are thinking about it, but it's a big gamble.

We're going to try and save fuel at every opportunity that doesn't cost us time. Say I come up to another car that I'm quicker than at the bottom of the Mountain, I'll short shift up it, and let him pull away a bit, and then attack him on the downhill when I won't have to use extra fuel to squirt past him.

If the weather is as grim as it was today, it's going to be a pretty dangerous race to be honest. The spray is horrendous, especially over the crests of the Conrod Straight at 160-170mph, and you can't see a b*****d thing. It is possible to go off on the straight, in fact, it's very easy to go off there. If someone does that, you're not going to see them, and it could end up looking like a small aircraft accident scene. I'm not worried about the top guys, I'm talking about Billy-Bob Wayne from the mountain, who races once a year, and his head is melting after an hour, so he's going to be making mistakes everywhere.

It's almost tempting to let everyone go past a chase after the race, and just sit and watch them go off or catch them back up again later. Much as I hate to say it, because I wanna go out there and race hard, it is a viable option. I reckon there's a chance of about 30 cars going off tomorrow - there was seven safety cars in the first 100 laps in sunny conditions last year!

We're a touch of the grass, a puddle, a white line or a kerb away from a big shunt here, and we've got to look after the car like it's our own baby. Hit the grass and the car will not stop until it finds a wall.

Team boss Tom Walkinshaw is due to fly here from Sydney tomorrow, but his pilot reckons he should start the trip now by car, 'cos there's no way he can fly in the low cloud. What I'm going to do in the morning is call Bathurst Airport when it opens at 7am and get their encoded weather reports because, being a pilot myself, I can decode the jargon. I can get a six hour forecast of cloudbase, rain, type of cloud, everything. Once I've got that, I'll know 95 per cent what it's going to do - aeronautical reports are always bang on. If they say it's going to rain, someone's going to get wet.

So, we've got our game plan, done as much preparation as is humanly possible, and it's time to get ready to rumble. Hopefully, everyone will be in one piece by the end of it.

Jason Plato

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