Walsh fine tunes for Bathurst tilt
SINCE he was a teenager racing karts, fearless Ipswich competitor Ashley Walsh wanted to conquer the most challenging mountain in Australian motorsport.
This morning, he starts that mission during qualifying for this weekend's Bathurst 1000.
As co-driver with Tim Blanchard in the Dick Johnson Racing team, Walsh is preparing for his first V8 Supercars endurance race around Mount Panorama.
"I'm a little bit nervous,'' Walsh, 25, said.
"I just hope the weekend goes smoothly.
"If we can stay out of trouble, we might get in the top 10 or so.''
Although keen to make some overnight adjustments to his Wilson Security Racing-backed Ford, Walsh sounded relaxed after completing his final practice run for the team.
"We went the wrong way with the set-up and we'll go back the other way tomorrow and hopefully it will better,'' the Ipswich born and bred driver said.
Walsh was watched yesterday by one of the proudest dads on the mountain.
His father Greg arrived in Bathurst on Wednesday afternoon to cheer on the dedicated Ipswich sportsman.
Ash's motorsport career was honed at venues like the Ipswich Kart Club track at Willowbank where he won state and national titles before rising up the motorsport ranks.
"I'm very pleased for him,'' Greg said having been there every step as Ash advanced into the Rising Star motorsport program and into the Dunlop Series and now V8s.
"He's been working hard at it and it would be nice to see things go his way.
"It's his first big meeting at the top level of motorsport in Australia.''
The Bathurst 1000 rookie was thrilled to see his father in Bathurst for his debut.
"It's good to have him down here. He always comes to race meetings,'' Ash said.
"He leaves me alone doing my thing. He's always pretty nervous.''
Ash's mum Kath will also be keeping an anxious eye on the racing while at home in Ipswich.
Back in Bathurst, Greg is looking forward to seeing the former Ipswich Grammar School student display his talents around the world famous circuit.
When his son is out of view on the race track, Greg plans to monitor Ash's progress on computers and on a big TV screen stationed with the team's semi-trailer.
Being a respected Ipswich accountant, Walsh is used to analysing information.
"I can tell how things are going by just looking at data,'' Greg said.
"We can see what's happening on the track as well as what the car is doing.''
Ash's sponsor Neil McPhillips, from the Infants' Friend company, was also in Bathurst with Greg.
"We caught the bus up to the top of the mountain this morning,'' Greg said.
"I've never really gone up there before other than around the track itself and I couldn't believe how many people are up there - and it's only Thursday.''
Greg and Neil hope Ash also reaches his racing pinnacle with similar satisfaction.
Ashley "Ash" Walsh
Age: 25. Born: Ipswich. Based: Yamanto. Occupation: Racing driver.
Hobbies: Playing football, triathlon, cycling. Played junior rugby league for Brothers.
Favourite sporting teams: Brisbane Roar, FC Barcelona.
Why motorsport: "It's addictive. All my family just clicked to motorsport. I can't imagine stopping it, even if I didn't become a professional.''
Ash's road to Bathurst: Started in karting where became a multiple state and national champion (2003-2004); progressed into Formula Ford racing (2005), coming third in 2006 Australian series; had eight straight wins in 2007, finishing second in series; raced the Western European Formula Renault Championship in 2008; joined Dunlop series 2011/12; before being invited to join V8 ranks this year.