Peter Hackett GT Championship hopes were dashed mid way through race 1
Peter Hackett went into the final round of the Sargent Security Australian GT Championship with a narrow advantage over Klark Quinn. The Erebus Mercedes driver saw his title chances almost gone after a violent spin in race one. While he tried valiantly in race two, he could not overcome Quinn and as such took out second in the Championship.
We talk to Peter about his Sydney weekend, that crash, his plans for the future and racing with DTM legend, Bernd Schneider.
Hi Peter, thanks for joining me, obviously not the weekend you were planning for at Sydney.
We were on track for a fairy tale. From the very beginning Erebus Racing started their GT Campaign to win the Championship. From the very beginning – you could write a book about our year to be honest. We had zero points after Clipsal, we led Clipsal until the end, almost. Then the dramas and trials and tribulations of our two heavily damaged cars – one at Phillip Island, one at Eastern Creek. The rebuilds, the race wins, the round wins we put ourselves in position to win the grand final. We were three points up, qualifying was great. We were a second ahead of Klark in the wet but it all went pear-shaped from there to be honest.
The crash in race one. I have seen it and saw it described as the ‘crash that kept on giving’ – what went wrong?
We have been receiving tremendous support from AMG Customer Sport for the whole year and having the Customer Sport drivers come out –Maro Engel, was coaching me and giving me tips. Thomas Jager came to the Gold Coast – their job is to help drivers around the world go faster and win Championships. For this round we had Bernd Schnieder – there is a whole other interview there (and there is!) on one of the fastest drivers. Everyone of these drivers have been influencing me on how I drive the car. Bernd had been showing tremendous pace in practice. It is remarkable what he is doing in a car. You try to pick up on those tips. In all the sessions, you see the data, the wet qualifying was a different game and the data from the dry didn’t carry over, in race one, I knew where my strengths and weaknesses were based on the data that we have been receiving from Bernd.
I have a Championship on the line. I wasn’t fast enough in the dry to beat Klark and I had to press and I had to push to beat him. Unfortunately, into turn five, the fast left-hander, at the turn in I carried a little too much brake, a little too much brake pressure. Just a little bit you know. These cars are on edge all of the time and as nice as they are to drive, that little bit just broke the car away. I tried valiantly to save it – those aren’t by words either – but I tried to save it, bring the car back. I don’t think I have ever had a racecar so sideways, so early in a corner.
Especially when you see some of the footage looking back up from turn six.
I glanced the wall on the right hand side and I though ‘ahh damn, I just need to keep this straight and I’ll go down the escape road and run on from there’. But then I glanced the wall on the left hand side. Still I thought it wasn’t that bad. I’ve just glanced the wall with both sides; I’ll still aim for the escape road. You’ve made a mistake and press on. But when I caught the wall on the left hand side it caught and broke the wheel instantly puncturing the tyre. That put the car into quite violent spin. We left foot brake in these cars and as soon as it started to spin, I took my foot off the brake pedal and put it on the clutch so it wouldn’t stall. I brought by right foot to the brake pedal and I bounced down the wall a little. I was actually trying to back it across the wall and back it the other side of turn seven so I wasn’t a danger to the other guys coming off turn five. That corner is difficult to see around at the best of times. It just caught me out and the last thing I wanted to be was stranded across the track at the exit point. If someone cleaned me up, it would put us out for the whole weekend.
My plan was to try to steer across the corner. I got it parallel with the circuit, and the curbs on the turn in point for turn six, as I caught the curb, it actually bounced my right foot off the brake pedal and I went into the wall with no brakes. As I hit the curb, it forced my right foot off the brake pedal. We had a bigger crash than we needed to. Up until that point when I headed into the wall, I was reasonably conformable with where I was going to end up.
If you missed the race, you can see race 1 (including Peter Hacektt’s crash on You Tube)
There was a lot of damage, as you mentioned. I read, and correct me if I am wrong, to get the car back on track for race two, you had some help from some people that were meant to be your corporate guests.
Yes! We like to get our partners, our sponsors and our supporters involved as often as possible. Snap On, who are a tremendous supporter of ours had run a competition for some of their suppliers. We had four guests from Snap On that worked in the industry – one was a panel beater, a couple were mechanics, they came in and were a part of our team for the weekend. They take the highs and they take the lows. They certainly don’t need to get involved. Everyone that works at Erebus is part of our extended family. They wanted to help, we didn’t ask them to do it. They rolled their sleeves up though and said ‘lets do this’. There was never a moment where people thought about not being able to fix it. From the moment the car came back we thought about what we needed to do fix it.
Our team owner, Betty literally put her gloves on and was lying under the car, doing bits of the floor. She had some very important things to do with the Supercar project she is working on. She had to cancel a couple of meetings – she didn’t have to, she wanted to cancel the meetings to be with the Erebus GT team and to get her hands in and dirty, getting the stuff off the car. For the rest of us, it was a really – something I’ll remember forever. Here is a lady that owns part of a V8 Supercar franchise, and she is lying on the ground on a Saturday afternoon in 40-degree heat, sweltering – trying to piece together a car that I just crashed.
The car was repaired and you did get on the grid for race 2, what was the plan – all out attack?
At this point we were only seven points behind. We went from five in front to seven behind. It is not ideal but we figured there was a good chance of rain for race two on the Sunday. My wet pace had been pretty good to be honest. We only missed out on the front row of the grid – from Bowe – by 0.4 of a second. We were right in the game and round a street circuit like Homebush anything can happen. We had the through if it can happen to me, it can happen to Klark. You never know what to expect and to have a chance of winning, you have to be there. We did everything we could to be there. We started last, got up to third, ran there for most of the race. Part of what I had been working on with Bernd was to brake a little bit harder and a little bit later with more pedal pressure. Unfortunately, I out braked myself a little into turn one and Bowe got past me. Which is disappointing. Everyone put in a lot of effort and getting a podium for them would have been satisfying result. It wouldn’t have done us any favours in the Championship but the team had worked so hard to get us on the track. We did everything we could to be there, it just wasn’t our weekend.
That’s 2012, looking towards 2013, we know Erebus is heading to V8 Supercars. Do you know if you will be staying with Erebus for the Australian GT?
Yeah, absolutely. There has been no discussion since two days ago to say we won’t be on the grid. I know there has been discussion on finalisng the calendar for the Australian GT Championship for 2013.
Definitely one of the things we (Erebus) want to do is expand into Asia and Europe – to do some international races. That is very exciting for us, as well as racing in Australia, we want to do some international stuff. These cars are incredible to drive. They are thoroughbred racing cars built with a purpose in mind. We want to make sure that they are raced in an environment they are built to. We don’t necessarily want to be at events that don’t do the cars any justice. As long as the calendar is where we want it to be and it is representative of what our brand is about, we will support it.
Bathurst 12 Hour – looking to go one better there as well?
Yeah, an interesting prospect. We are still waiting on a few things. We were waiting till the end of Homebush. We didn’t know what was going to happen to the cars at Homebush. One car is perfectly straight. The car I was in, #63 was racing. There is a little cosmetic stuff to touch up before the 12 Hour. We need to go back to the 12 Hour at some point but we don’t have any firm plans. The Regulations – as a team we are waiting to find out whether the regulations are final. There has been some controversy over what level of homologation the cars that entered last year were in – weight, ride height and things like that. To be honest, I don’t think we were batting on and FIA GT3 playing field. We will make sure those regulations are in place and policed before committing to next year.
Finally – a word on Bernd, he was electric in the car. Absolutely phenomenal pace. How was it to drive next a five time DTM, one time ITC, FIA GT Champions?
And an F1 driver as well! He is remarkable, he really is. Every second of every corner of every lap he is at 100%. There is no doubt that he is committed. There is no cruising, setting yourself in. It is just flat out. For me, that is the biggest difference. A new circuit, a new car – for us, we have only raced eight time, but he knows everything about the car. He has had more influence in that particular racing car than anyone else. He gets into it like it’s his second skin. He will know in advance by the way it acting whether he needs to move the ABS, balance, traction control or position on the track differently so the bumps don’t affect the car. Where I am still finding my way to best operate the car, he is just trying to go fast. That was the biggest difference.
I was reasonably happy with some aspects of my weekend. The data showed that I reached the same pedal pressures he did but I was just too early on them. I kept having to get on and off the brakes. I kept having to modify inside the car to adapt around the circuit where as Bernd knew from his very first lap where his braking point was and he hit it every time. He is an unbelievable professional, very humble. He was very open to giving me suggestions and wanting to coach us through.
I felt a little bit sorry for him too. He had flown all this way to help us win the Title, and we didn’t do that. I couldn’t help but to say ‘sorry we didn’t get the job done with you.’ That would have really added to the fairy tale.
As a driver, he is remarkable.
Bernd Schneider was untouchable in the other Erebus Mercedes
Thanks Peter, commiserations but you drove a great 2012 season and I look forward to talking to you in 2013.
Thanks, it has been great talking to you guys and will be talking to you again next year.
Interview by Sam Tickell, December 2012
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