Walsh calm for 'race of his life'
THIS weekend is the biggest of Ashley Walsh's life as a racer.
The Yamanto product will partner Scott Pye in the Dick Johnson Racing (DJR) team's assault on the Bathurst 1000, while trying to reclaim the Dunlop Development series lead in his Matt Stone Racing (MSR) Ford Falcon.
He goes in to the weekend trying to maintain an even keel, both on the track and off it.
But having come through some dark situations last year, Walsh knows he can deal with whatever is thrown at him.
"There's been moments of self doubt and questioning whether I had the ability or the right stuff," Walsh said.
"There was a lot of self-doubt after Sandown last year after the crash, if I had what it took to make it."
Walsh, in his first drive in the main game at Sandown - with the DJR team - crashed his car at 250kmh, ending his and teammate Tim Blanchard's event.
Yet it was Walsh's response to that incident that saw him prove himself weeks later at Bathurst in last year's big race.
"It was a good time too," he said.
"I came back at Bathurst and fixed all the things that went wrong at Sandown and had a successful year off the back of that."
It is why Walsh heads into this weekend much more secure in his own ability to mix it with the country's best drivers.
"I was trying too hard," he said of what went wrong at Sandown last year.
"I was too hungry and desperate.
"I just needed to let it come to me and be a little bit more level headed."
A level head is something he will need as he juggles his responsibilities this weekend.
After two 45 minute practice sessions in his DJR Falcon yesterday Walsh had a brief window to speak to the QT before a meeting with the MSR engineers to discuss today's Development Series qualifying.
"You've got to stay level," he said. "I'm excited to see where it goes. But you've got to take one race at a time."
Where last year Walsh had to rely on his inner resolve to pick himself up after Sandown, this time his experience has him in good stead.
"I feel the pressure is off a bit," Walsh said.
Again, it was his experience at Sandown that gives him confidence.
With the car not responding how they had hoped, Walsh and Scott Pye qualified in 19th spot at Sandown last month.
But things came right during the race and they guided the car to fifth spot, with Walsh instrumental.
"I felt we got the monkey off our backs," Walsh said. "So we know if we do a good job we should be fine.
"Bathurst is a longer race but I'll do a similar job, and take it easy.
"At the end of the day I've got to give the car back to Scott straight."
Walsh and Pye's car was three seconds off the pace yesterday, but Walsh was confident they would make significant gains overnight.
On old tyres Walsh was the quickest during the co-drivers sessions, but the DJR Falcon lost time on its rivals on new tyres.
"In the last session Scott was a little bit dumbfounded," Walsh said. "But I'm reasonably happy."
The Bathurst weekend is the most draining of the season for even the most experienced drivers.
But Walsh has the added challenge of having to pilot two different cars in different series.
"Jumping between the cars can be a little bit difficult," he said.
"Both have the tendency to slide around a bit. But that's something the team will be working on and come Sunday we'll have a plan in place.
"It's also a constantly evolving thing during the race."