After wins at Clipsal and the Melbourne Grand Prix, Steven Richards and Laser Racing Porsche Carrera Cup team are sitting fourth in the 2013 Australian Carrera Cup Championship heading into Round 5 five this weekend at Winton Motor Raceway. Steve will be dividing his time on Friday between the Porsche and getting more miles in the Ford Performance Racing Falcon he’ll be partnering with Mark Winterbottom for the V8 Supercar endurance series. Steven found time to catch up with us before the trek to Benalla.
It’s been a pretty successful year so far in Carrera Cup. Are you looking forward to Winton?
Steve: Yeah, it’s our home track but most of the guys have done a lot of miles around there. The thing is that the track itself changes so much when the V8’s go there that testing can become a little bit irrelevant. When you have 28 cars plus the support categories your initial set-up can alter dramatically.
How have you found the Porsche this year? Is there anything you’ve been able to unlock performance-wise as opposed to previous years?
Probably in the middle part of last year we lost our way a little bit, but when I say that it was more in terms of our competitors finding a little bit more and it took me a little while to get on top of that. But realistically from Bathurst last year through to the start of this season we’ve had the equal pace of pretty well everyone. The championship might not reflect that but that’s down to a few things that’ve been out of our control. We had a disappointing meeting in Townsville where we had the speed but had a bit of a bad start in race one put us on the back foot. But the difference is that some of the teams have the international resources to grab hold of where we’re taking all the advice we can get – that people are willing to pass on. Sometimes that’s not always the right way to go so you have to find out what works in the way you drive the car.
You had two early wins at arguably the more prestigious rounds (Clipsal and Melbourne). That must be pretty rewarding in itself?
It’s even more rewarding because Steven Richards Motorsport is full of very experienced people but we’re kind of doing it based on our own knowledge and utilizing our own resources. SO when you do get a result that satisfaction you get is incredible. As a competitive individual you want to beat the best and the benchmark is Craig Baird. Craig’s consistently scoring points and even when he has a bad day he always manages to get something from it so when you can knock him off it’s unbelievable.
But the top four or five guys have been incredibly consistent which makes the job even harder.
The surprise packet this year has probably been Warren Luff, who statistically hasn’t had the speed but he’s had the right combination at Rensport. He’s driven the car really well and hasn’t made too many mistakes which helps with the championship.
Does working in a smaller team give you more room to move rather than being in a big operation?
Oh yeah. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m probably guilty of trying to do too much whereas there are other guys who just turn up to the track and just concentrate on the driving. But at the end of the day I’m trying to forge a path for Steven Richards Motorsport, who’ve got customers and people who want to enjoy going racing. My time is shared between all of those things so I don’t for one minute use that as a reason or as an excuse, but when you do get a result it makes it all the more rewarding.
You’re just a few points of Nick Percat at the moment, is third a realistic target in the championship or do you think there’s possible more on offer?
We could still realistically win the championship, but it would take three outstanding rounds of either first or second with Bairdo having an uncompetitive round, but the reality of finishing second is absolute, so that’s where our efforts are going to start at Winton. The reality is we have to start winning rounds, which isn’t easy but we’ve got the knowledge now with the car to produce something fast. If we can qualify on the front row we’ll be in a good position.
You’ve of course been testing the FPR (Ford Performance Racing) Falcon with Mark Winterbottom for the V8 Supercar endurance series. How have you found the Car of the Future versus the older model? Some people like Russel Ingall are saying it’s more driver-friendly.
To be honest there’s virtually no difference in terms of driving the car. The car’s are of a similar weight with the same tyre width. Initially – by all accounts – the cars were a bit different, but that’s when they really hadn’t been sorted out. From an FPR standpoint, now that they’ve got the car working better there’s not much difference at all. You certainly don’t have to change your driving style. The car’s still slow in the middle of the corner – maybe a little bit better – but there’s probably a fair way to go still in the development of the cars. We’re finding in testing that you can make a small change and find or lose two tenths which hasn’t been the case for a number of years.
How has the initial development for the enduros been going?
Good mate. The reality of a test driver is that you go to a test day and hang around until the guys decide to give you some mileage in the car. Then they stick you on the oldest set of tyres that they have and you go and drive the car. You do five to ten laps, bring it in and then the main driver continues to test. Having said that I was probably luckier than most in that Mark WInterbottom was off overseas on a holiday and FPR had to reschedule a test day which gave me a full day in the car. We’re also at the stage preceding the enduros where in Friday practice the co-driver gets the first thirty minutes in the car so I’m probably as well prepared as any of the test drivers out there at the moment.
And with the enduros just around the corner and Richmond in the finals you must be full of confidence?
Yes (laughs) it’s been a good year! We’re only a few weeks away from the Sandown 500 so it’s come around unbelievably quick. The teams themselves are still pretty anxious because these cars aren’t as reliable as the old cars were. We’ve still got a few little things to sort out with them so we’ve all a little bit nervous still.
With the relative gap between Carrera Cup and V8 Supercars, have you found New Zealand SuperTourers useful in terms of keeping your eye-in?
No not really. NZ Supertourers are a great category but you’d still put that in the same relative category as Carrera Cup which is essentially a one-make championship where everything is the same. They’re still developing the rules and regulations so it can be a moving goal-post and often you don’t know if you’ve got the same weapon to take to war so to speak. Having done the series last year didn’t hurt me, but they’re still very simple compared to a supercar.
You also dabbled in the Australian GT Championship with M-Motorsport. How’s the Lamborghini Gallado been treating you?
They’re awesome. The GT3-spec cars are just fantastic to drive. You’ve got good power and good grip plus the guys at M-Motorsport are terrific people and from my perspective it’s great to help out them go better as well.
Thanks for your time Steve!
Laser Racing Porsche Carrera Cup team are a big supporter for variety children’s charities, providing fifty ride days a year. To find out more please go to www.laserracing.com.au
Images courtesy of Laser Racing Carrera Cup