David Brabham helped V8 Supercar regular Alex Davison and IRWIN Racing record an impressive tenth place finish in the L&H 500 at Phillip Island, the pair making up nine spots over their grid position.
Starting 19th, the team showed that it had improved the IRWIN Ford in time for the morning warm-up, where it ran second fastest, and Davison started the race strongly to climb as high as third place before handing over to Brabham. The American Le Mans Series frontrunner, who has not raced a V8 supercar since 2006, showed his raised level of performance throughout a double stint to hand the car back to Davison while leading the race.
Sadly, the team's luck wasn't to hold as, at the last pit-stop, the IRWIN duo lost several positions, but were still able to finish the race in a very respectable tenth place, boosting confidence heading into the biggest race of the year, the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
“It was a long race and you've just got to play it the best you can," Brabham admitted afterwards, "IRWIN Racing had a very good result after starting from 19th on the grid. We made the top ten and had a faultless race.
"I was happy with my drive too. In the first stint, I was doing low 37s, which is about where the race was at, while the second set were a lot quicker, but I was dicing with people that were slower than me and it was hard to get past them. There are still a few things that we need to look at, like losing a bit of time in that last stop, which lost us some places. We could have been higher up the order but, with the pace of car #9 and what we were able to achieve here, and car #47, I think it gives the team a really good boost leading into the big one at Bathurst.”
Davison agreed that there were a lot of positives to come out of the day, particularly for his co-driver.
"It was good preparation for Bathurst, particularly for David," the V8 veteran said, "He was getting quicker and quicker all weekend and then, in the race, he was right on the pace. He'll be able to go to Bathurst and we'll be evenly-matched, which is what you need.
"It makes it easy for the strategy having both drivers on the pace and, at times, we had really good pace, particularly David on his second set of tyres. They were better than the first set and he had fantastic pace. We passed lots of cars, but we still need the IRWIN Ford to handle a little better. We made some good changes to the car and improved it, and were constantly fine-tuning it over the weekend, trying to improve the handling. [Engineer] Dave (Stuart) changed a few things overnight and gave us a better car than yesterday. It was not as good as we needed it to be to get on the podium, but it was solid, and I think we're looking good for Bathurst.”
Stuart revealed that the team had, at least, achieved the first aim of the weekend, namely to secure a top ten finish, but admitted that the result should have been better still.
“That was a pretty satisfying result, given were we started, but I'm a little disappointed that we lost those places in the final pit-stop," he grimaced, "We need to sit down and have a good look at everyone's pit-stop times to see how that happened.
"That aside, we had really good balance today and good race pace. Alex drove really, really well in the opening stint and then David did a fantastic job. He wasn't happy with the level of grip in the first stint, but we put another set of tyres on at the pit-stop. The car picked up and he was as competitive as all of the main game drivers.
"At testing last week, we discussed what our goal would be at Phillip Island, and we thought that, if we could finish in the top ten, we would be happy. During the race, we were running higher than that and, while I'm happy to finish tenth, I'm disappointed that we finished further back from where we could have been. We had the speed to run in the top five for sure, but I say 'roll on Bathurst'. It was all very encouraging, and IRWIN Racing and the other Stone Brothers Racing cars will be really strong there.”