Reigning Australian F3 champion James Winslow looks set to make his first appearance in the country's V8 Supercar category after setting the pace at two different rookie test sessions in recent weeks.
The Briton, who has spent the past season racing sportscars and Formula Atlantic in the United States, returned to his adopted home 'down under' for the winter, and was first invited to try out with Greg Murphy Racing alongside five other V8 hopefuls. Then, having lapped right on V8 veteran Murphy's pace, he was offered a second outing with Jay Motorsport at Mallala, and again topped the times, leading to the invitation to race in next month's Sydney finale.
Having been offered various V8 tests after his successful F3 campaign last season, Winslow – whose Australian title was his third international crown in as many seasons – finally got behind the wheel of a Fujitsu Series Holden Commodore VZ at Winton, and immediately impressed by setting the fastest time of the day.
Moreover, Winslow also came close to matching Bathurst 1000 winner Murphy's target time, after the Kiwi flew in to oversee the test. After taking the aspirants for a guided tour of the circuit from the cockpit of the Commodore, Murphy honed its set-up to establish a benchmark by which the youngsters cold be evaluated, but only Winslow came close.
“It was great to get the opportunity to try a V8 Supercar after coming so close last season – and even better to get that chance with a driver of Greg Murphy's calibre,” the Briton admitted, “Greg provided us with a few pointers before we went out, but I never expected to get quite so close to his time as I still had to get used to the car, which is a lot different to what I have been driving this season.”
Using his prior knowledge of the Winton track, Winslow blitzed the field with a lap of 1min 28.2secs, putting him well ahead of the next quickest driver, and only 0.06secs shy of Murphy's yardstick.
“Everyone knows what Greg is capable of, so it was great to get so close to his time, especially as we only had 25 laps on old rubber,” the reigning Australian Drivers' champion continued, “However, I felt at home in the Holden almost immediately and that definitely showed in the performance.
“Despite being the 'junior' series, the cars are very similar to the full V8 Supercar, going from 0-100mph in a shade under four seconds, and reaching a top speed of 180mph, so they can't be taken lightly. I really enjoyed my run at Winton, and hope that I did enough to generate interest for 2010.”
Instead of having to wait until 2010, however, Winslow found his performance leading to the chance to run with Jay Motorsport at Mallala, where he promptly out-paced rising Australian stars Nick Percat and Steven White among others. Again running on old rubber - and in temperatures reaching in excess of 42 degrees - the Briton clocked 1min 11.1secs to put a couple of tenths between himself and the rest of the field, and earn himself the chance to make his V8 debut in Sydney.
“The hype surrounding the Sydney race has been massive, and it should be a big event,” the Briton said of the widely-anticipated Sydney Telstra 500, which will be held on a specially-constructed circuit that weaves its way around the precinct constructed for the 2000 Olympic Games.
“There are two Fujitsu Series races that weekend, and I can't wait to be involved. V8 Supercars was where I had hoped to be this year, but things didn't work out that way over the winter, so I am determined to take this opportunity with both hands. I want to thank both Greg Murphy Racing and Jay Motorsport for the chance to show what I can do in a V8 Supercar, and I look forward to repaying the faith Jay Motorsport has shown in handing me the chance to race in Sydney with a good result.”