James Winslow made the most of his late call-up to the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series by racking up a top ten finish on debut and opening more than a few eyes ahead of the 2010 season.
Handed the chance to race in the season-ending Sydney Telstra 500 by Jay Motorsport, the Briton belied his lack of 'tin top' experience and seized the opportunity to stake a claim to a permanent place on the grid next year by qualifying just a handful of tenths off pole position and then showing more-seasoned rivals a clean pair of heels in both the weekend's races.
Having concentrated largely on single-seaters throughout his successful career, Winslow had just 40 laps of testing in a V8 Supercar under his belt before hitting the track at the specially-constructed layout around Sydney's Olympic Park, but quickly got to grips with the Holden Commodore at his disposal.
Having easily topped the times in each of his pre-race tests and featured in the top twelve in practice in Sydney, he hustled the Sip 'n' Save car to a time just a couple of tenths shy of a spot on row three of the grid for race one, having been denied a cleaner lap by a slower car that hampered his new tyre run.
“The pace was very encouraging from the off,” he said, “Although it was frustrating not to be able to show exactly why I was capable of in qualifying, putting together my best sector times proved that I could have been as high as fifth on the grid, and the gave me great confidence for the two races to follow.”
Starting instead from eleventh spot, Winslow made a good getaway to gain a few places, only to see his early progress slowed by the appearance of the safety car as the Fujitsu field discovered just how tricky the Homebush Park circuit was in race conditions. Winslow, too, was not immune from error, locking up his rear wheels while trying to make another pass on the slippery inside line and making light contact with the tyre barrier.
The #42 machine was undamaged in the incident and, having dropped back to 14th as a result, the Briton proceeded to charge back through the field, retaking five places in the remaining laps and setting the fourth fastest time of the race.
“The off was frustrating, but all part of what was still a steep learning curve,” Winslow admitted, “Fortunately, the car was hardly marked and there was still enough time for me to make amends. It was good to be able to make moves, if slightly galling to know that we had the pace for a potential podium finish. In a class where Ford has dominated for the past few years, it was great to be able to come straight in and be the fastest Holden.”
The second race of the weekend got off in similar fashion to the first, with Winslow making immediate gains at the start, before running into problems. This time, it was a slipping clutch that led to his downfall, dropping the Jay Motorsport entry back before eventually causing its retirement with two laps to run, but the Briton remained upbeat.