Ipswich ace set for first V8 Supercars race
SINCE long before he had a driver's licence, Ash Walsh dreamt of this moment.
On Sunday, the Ipswich motorsport ace will contest the Sandown 500 as part of the Dick Johnson Racing Team.
Walsh has been competing in the V8 development series for the past two seasons and it is his first race at the top level - V8 Supercars.
Given the gravity of the situation Walsh could be excused for being a bundle of nerves.
But the opposite was the case as a calm Walsh settled into the Sandown surrounds yesterday.
"I've done quite a lot of racing here, just not in a V8," Walsh said.
Today he will have three practice rounds as well as one tomorrow before qualifying.
"I'm a little bit numb to it at the moment," the Yamanto racer said of the occasion.
"For the 15 or 20 minutes before the race I'm sure I'll be very nervous. But once you've got a few laps under your belt it should be like second nature."
Walsh expects to start the race and drive at least the first 54 laps (the minimum for each co-driver), before handing over to co-driver Tim Blanchard to finish the race.
That could well change however, depending on race-day circumstances.
It is not something Walsh needs to worry about. Perhaps part of the reason the nerves remain at bay is Walsh hasn't allowed himself to think about the pressure he is under to perform.
An impressive showing will boost his chances of getting a regular drive in the V8 Supercars calendar.
This season he will contest just the three endurance races at Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast.
An early crash or poor performance on Sunday and it will be others the main game teams look at as future prospects.
"I'm not feeling it yet," Walsh said of the pressure.
"When it gets close to race time I'll definitely feel it.
"There's more pressure from all the things we haven't done; like pit stops, driver changes, not speeding in the pit lane and that sort of thing.
"I'm not worried about driving."
Nor has Walsh spent much time thinking about the challenge he faces against Australia's best drivers.
"I haven't really thought about it," he said. "It feels like just another race meeting at the moment.
"I'm just happy to finally start.
"We've talked about all the things I need to concentrate on.
"We'll try and do a solid job and if we're on track and there's been no major mistakes we should be on track for a decent finish."