Bathurst nerves for Walsh
ONE of the privileges of driving V8 Supercars for the Erebus Motorsport team is when you are in Sydney, you get a complimentary Mercedes to drive to the race site.
But for Ash Walsh, stuck in traffic on Sydney's M5 Motorway in a Mercedes Benz C200 on Tuesday afternoon was hardly an ideal preparation for what was to come.
Although Walsh will contest his third Bathurst 1000 this weekend, it will be his first for Erebus and his first as lead driver.
Accompanying him is Jack Le Brocq, with whom Walsh finished 19th at the Sandown 500 last month.
Ipswich product Walsh hopes a better balanced car will improve his tyre wear in the big one and give him and Le Brocq a chance at a good result.
Whatever happens, Walsh and Le Brocq are sure to be noticed, with their car getting a pink painted makeover thanks to new sponsor Wendy's.
Walsh doesn't think the car's bold livery, with big pink heart on the side, puts any extra pressure on him at the macho heartland of Australian V8 racing.
"I'm looking forward to it," Walsh said.
"It's my first time as the main driver so I'm a bit nervous going into the biggest, longest race of the year.
"You're always under pressure to succeed whether you're the main or co-driver.
"There's a little bit more responsibility on my shoulders but it doesn't change the pressure."
It does mean more laps for Walsh, who is set to drive more than 100 of the 6.213km laps on Sunday.
He handled the responsibility well at Sandown, even if he wasn't happy with the result, and this is twice the distance.
But Walsh has demonstrated his vast potential the last two times he has raced at Mt Panorama.
He got as high as fourth in last year's race before his Dick Johnson Racing co-driver Scott Pye crashed out.
"Certainly last year gave me confidence at the track, which I found quite daunting the year before," Walsh said.
"I was quite confident with our speed in the race.
"That helps but at the end of the day Bathurst is a track that deserves respect.''
Walsh and Pye, among many others, found that out last season as the recently relaid surface wreaked havoc on the field.
It is why just finishing the race can be a successful outcome, giving anyone still racing to the end a chance at a podium finish.
"I can guarantee there will be 25 nervous guys in cars in those early laps," Walsh said.
"We haven't had the front tyre life we would have liked the last couple of rounds so staying out of trouble is the key to a result."
- Ash Walsh's Bathurst schedule
- Today: Practice (3 sessions)
- Tomorrow: Practice (2 sessions) and qualifying
- Saturday: Practice (1 session) and Top 10 shootout
- Sunday: Race from 10am (Queensland time).