V8 Supercars

Caruso Driving for Better Result

Thursday 16 May 2013 6:00
By: V8 Supercars

The results don’t show it, but factory Nissan Motorsport driver Michael Caruso believes he is driving at a higher level than ever in 2013.

Faced with a power deficit compared to most rivals on the V8 Supercar grid, the Norton Nissan Altima driver has reviewed his driving style forensically looking for improvements.

“I am asking a lot more of my driving this year and I enjoy that,” the 29-year old told V8Supercars.com.au. “I like to improve as a driver and this gives me an opportunity at the moment to refine my driving and make it a lot better.

“When we improve in the engine it will show for sure.”

Caruso was speaking before he sampled the production Altima in the USA this week in the lead-up to the Austin 400 at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas.

On Tuesday, along with teammates Todd and Rick Kelly, Caruso toured the Smyrna plant in Tennessee where the Altima is built, visited the company’s North American headquarters at nearby Franklin and then had a steer of an Altima.

While he has raced the V8 Supercar version of the Altima since February, the road car does not go on-sale for some months in Australia.

The Altima V8 Supercars program has been hampered by a shortage of horsepower of the production-based VK56DE engine the team uses. Serious developments aimed at bridging the gap to the established Fords and Holdens should start flowing through by the Sucrogen Townsville 400 in July.

“You know you are losing down the straight, so you take more out of what’s going on in the corner,” Caruso explained. “You have to scrutinise that part of the corner a bit more, whether it be the handling of the car or the way I can approach the corner and the inputs I put into the car.

“Obviously a big part of driving is what we do. You can get more out of the car looking at what you are doing. When you are at the front of the field you are not going to be constantly pushing yourself because you are at the front, so now is a good opportunity for that.”

Despite his efforts Caruso is yet to score a top 10 finish in a championship race this year. In race one at the Chill Perth 360 he raced from the back of the grid to 11th, finishing immediately behind his teammate James Moffat. But on Sunday he suffered a slow pit stop in the first race and then a wheel fell off in the second race after his pit stop.

Despite the dramas and frustrations, he remains focussed on the long term positives.

“I am still pretty motivated because I can see so many good things in the team once we get things happening it is going to be good.

“One of the reasons I made the decision to come to Nissan was I wanted to be part of a program from the ground up and that is exactly what it is. I feel it’s great to be factory driver, but as part of that I want to be part of something that I can build with the race team and hopefully get to the point where I can be very successful.

“That is something that really inspires me to work harder.”

Caruso, whose five year main game stint with Garry Rogers Motorsport yielded one race win at Darwin in 2009, has enjoyed racing toe-to-toe with the Kellys and Moffat. Some of the best battles this year have been between the four Nissans in the midfield.

“I can drive door to door with any three of them and be confident I can come out of the corner and still be on the track,” Caruso said. “That’s an important part that we treat each other with respect on the circuit.

“But we don’t follow each other around in a procession. Obviously we all want to be the best so it’s important if there is an opportunity to pass we take it.”

This weekend in Texas, which comprises four 100km races with mandatory pit stops for tyres, Caruso isn’t kidding himself that it will be anything but tough: “The pit stops make it harder for us this weekend because we tend to look after our tyres and move forward in the races. But we will just have to make it work for us as best we can.”

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