Monday 21 January 2013 15:21
By: V8 Supercars
A DIVE through the racing history of Alex Premat’s career is explanation enough why team owner Garry Rogers – one never afraid to take a risk on a driver - has decided to retain his services for a second season.
Rogers has stuck with his great overseas experiment for a second year (as reported on this website here) and it may well be another typically savvy GRM decision from the team that brought you Steven Richards, Garth Tander, Jamie Whincup, Lee Holdsworth and Michael Caruso, amongst others.
Put simply, 2012 was the first full season where Premat didn’t drive a racing car that featured aero and mechanical grip over horsepower and limited amounts of traction.
Premats’ career has been driven through open wheelers – cars with massive grip and requiring a finesse and accuracy to drive. His career was spent in cars that always had plenty of available tyre grip, aerodynamic performance and cornering speed.
Now consigned to the Dunlop
Series, the existing V8 Supercars were a unique animal to steer.
Drivers would tell you that they were brutal, requiring smooth driving to maximise tyre life – remember, these are heavy beasts – whilst at the same time being aggressive behind the wheel to muscle the cars into a corner and over kerbs.
Whereas Premat could use a DTM car’s aerodynamics and massive grip generated by big tyres and Formula One-style suspension to corner quickly – a V8 Supercar was vastly different for the Frenchman and required a vastly different driving style to adapt.
V8 Supercars of the past couldn’t be thrown into a corner with a raw belief that they would grip – they needed to be slowed well into the apex before feeding 640hp to the rear wheels without burning up the tyres.
In terms of driving style, these cars have been so removed from other forms of Touring Car racing that drivers who have come from overseas at the top of their game to drive them have been sent home packing pretty quickly.
British Touring Car Champions Matt Neal and Jason Plato spring to mind and only a few, like Andy Priaulx and Yvan Muller, succeeded in the cars relatively quickly after jumping into one for the first time.
However, Premat’s experience did come to the fore throughout 2012 and by the season-ending Sydney Telstra 500 and after a tortuous learning experience, he was as competitive as anyone. And when you are competitive you get out of the fierce mid-pack war which is where all the damage and collisions occur.
Get out of that and you stand a much better shot at sustained success in this most competitive of categories – were the full field can be covered by one second or less.
Now with a (more) level playing field thank to Car of the Future Premat will enter the new season much more confident – and he will be buoyed with what he experiences when he gets behind the wheel.
Do you remember the first impressions Neil Crompton and Mark Skaife both had when they first drove the Holden and Ford COTF prototypes back in Sydney, at the end of 2011? Both, to a tee, said the cars had more grip. They were lighter, more nimble and even ‘pointier’. They drove more like the wings and slicks open wheelers where both served their motor racing apprenticeships’, racing in the Gold Star.
And that’s what will perk Alex Premat up significantly.
His career CV showcases cars just like what those two were talking about: Formula Renault (title winner), Formula Three (Macau Grand Prix winner), GP2 (third, the same year Lewis Hamilton won the title) and A1 Grand Prix (helping team France to the title).
His time in DTM was spent in cars that are all-but open-wheelers with carbon bodies and he impressed there, too.
V8 Supercars COTF offers a lot of what Premat is used to. Those to have driven them already liken them more to a GT car than an existing V8 Supercar and that will be music to Alex Premat’s ears.
The new cars turn, they grip and they go hard.
It could be just the tonic for a driver who despite an incredible wealth of success and experience wasn’t able to showcase what he was capable of in the challenging, old-school V8’s of last year.
The V8’s of the future, however, are much more up his alley and could well lead Garry Rogers into success that will vindicate his decision to continue Fujitsu Racing’s French Connection.