Sprint Gas Racing has the work to do, but the potential to run with the frontrunners in the V8 Supercar series is there, according to former champion Mark Skaife, who pulled on the helmet for the first time since 'retiring' late last year and drove Greg Murphy's Sprint Gas Holden in practice at Winton.
Skaife had not driven a V8 Supercar since December last year, but turned out in the 30-minute opening practice session to help out former team manager Jeff Grech by providing feedback on the development of the SGR car.
“Jeff called me asking if I'd drive the #51 car at Winton,” the five-time champion said, “Jeff explained that the team had made really good progress with 'Murph''s car, the early season test had gone extremely well, development was continuing and he wanted some further feedback.
“I've worked with Jeff Grech and Mike Henry over the years and hold them both in very high regard, I didn't have to be asked to drive 'Murph''s car twice. I love the thought of being able to assist where I can, especially with a team that are in the growth stages of car development. I've spent my life developing and racing cars and miss the full time aspect of driving and competing.”
The drive with Sprint Gas Racing is a one-off for Skaife, although his appearance naturally started the rumour mill with regard to a possible return in the two endurance events towards the end of the season.
“This is a one off drive, which I'm really looking forward to after being out of the car since last December,” Skaife said before the Winton weekend kicked off, “This opportunity has come around at the right time; I'm definitely feeling the need to drive a competitive car. It has been difficult going cold turkey since my retirement, but it has always been my plan to drive something throughout the year. I just didn't think it'd come around this quickly.”
Having sampled the #51, the former Toll HRT owner-driver admitted that SGR wasn't too far away from becoming a threat for success.
“Sprint Gas Racing has a car that has the potential to run at the front,” Skaife said, “The core of the car is very good, but needs further development in other areas. SGR is doing things differently to how I'm used to, but then I've had the HRT blinkers on for a large chunk of my career, it was very interesting. There is definitely more than one way to engineer and develop a car.
"My thoughts coincided with what 'Murph' has experienced - I explained what I thought was good with the car and then looked at areas that were problematic. With some changes I'm confident that they'll be able to get a lot more out of it. I hope that the feedback that I gave can help the team with its development, it's certainly going in the right direction, which is what I would expect with people like Jeff Grech and Mike Henry running the show.”