Some days in motor racing are better left forgotten and today was one of those. Oran Park in 2001 was the scene of Pepsi Racing's first failure to qualify after unforeseen problems arose. Not to be outdone, today saw the three sessions, the two 20 minute practice and the 25 minute qualifying sessions feature three different minor problems and a total of seven laps completed.
In the first practice, a new bearing failed inside the front right wheel hub after only one lap forcing a race against time to ready the car in time and the repairs only finished 3 minutes into P2.
With repairs completed and Dugal ready to go out, the car could not be started. Suspecting that it was low on charge, a booster pack and even a new battery were tried without success forcing the team to push start the car. Track officials had no option but to issue a black flag for the infringement and decree that the car would need to come into the pits and restart under its own power. With this proving impossible, work started on solving the problem in time for qualifying and miss the last opportunity to get some practice in before qualifying.
Between P1 and P2 it was discovered that the engine earth strap had come loose and once fixed the team were confident that nothing further could go wrong.
Sure enough, the car fired first time and for three laps, all was going well and Dugal was fairly happy with the balance of the car but decided to make changes to the rear shocks in an attempt to cure some oversteer.
Having made his way back to his pit the engine was turned off while the adjustments were made and a new set of tyres fitted. It was at this point that strike three occurred with the starter motor found to have fried its solenoid, game over.
According to Dugal, "Today was not ideal but that's racing and tomorrow is another day."
The two 57-lap races are vital track time for the team to come to terms with the changes brought to the car over the past three weeks, especially for the crew to acclimatise to changing centre-lock wheels under race conditions.