Walsh aiming for Bathurst finish
WHEN Ash Walsh was awoken by the sound of V8 engines hurtling down Mt Panorama race track’s Conrad straight on Thursday morning, it was music to his ears.
Walsh had arrived the night before, ahead of tomorrow’s Bathurst 12-hour race at which he will make his debut for Miles Racing in a HSV Astra VRX in Class E.
While not competing in the leading class, Walsh will go bumper to bumper with the likes of Craig Lowndes and John Bowe.
He heads into the race with mixed expectations.
On one hand, he wants to impress.
But more important is finishing unscathed.
“I’m looking forward to it,” the Yamanto 23-year-old said. “It is a car I haven’t really driven on a track I’ve never been on.”
Adding to the confusion, he has been informed his car should be good enough to win its class, but told he is not expected to.
His team is not placing any pressure on him, as the purpose of the weekend is to get some kilometres under his belt ahead of the 2011 Fujitsu V8 Supercar series opener, the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide from March 17-20.
“That’s when it gets serious,” Walsh said. “I’m not too worried (about this weekend).
“This is endurance racing, which is not really the style I’m used to.
“You don’t go flat out and tend to take it a bit easier.
“The team has said ‘just go out to do what you’re set to do, get some laps and see what you get out of it’.”
If that means keeping himself on a tight rein, so be it, even if it goes against Walsh’s competitive instincts.
“I always want to win,” he said.
“But if I don’t finish, it will look worse.
“No one looks at who wins our class but everyone notices if you crash.”
Walsh had his first drive on the track during yesterday’s practice sessions, setting the fastest time for his class with a 2min 42.1sec lap.
Walsh and teammates Chaz Mostert and Gerard McLeod will have two qualifying sessions today ahead of tomorrow’s race.
Having watched the Bathurst 1000 many times, Walsh knows the track inside out from the couch, but was trying not to go in with any preconceptions.
“It is always completely different when you drive it yourself,” he said.
“I rode my bike up it (on Thursday) morning.
“It’s pretty steep.”
When Walsh’s overseas jaunt came to an unsuccessful conclusion in Formula Renault in 2009, he thought his racing days were over.
Now Miles Racing have given him a shot among the big boys, he is determined to make the most of it and enjoy every lap.
“I thought I wouldn’t be driving a race car again,” Walsh said. “I really thought my time was over.
“Every race for me is a godsend. I’m having more fun and am more appreciative.
“Before Europe, I didn’t appreciate my opportunities.
“I took it for granted.”
Which is not to say he does not feel any pressure now.
“It is definitely make or break,” he said of the coming season.
“But you just have to take it one race at a time.
“You can’t be worried about the bigger picture.
“You just have to try to manage your emotions or nine times out of 10 you will end up performing badly. I try to keep a level head and not get too upset about things.”