A DIVE through the racinghistory of Alex Premat’s career is explanation enough why team owner GarryRogers – one never afraid to take a risk on a driver - has decided to retainhis services for a second season.
Rogers has stuck with hisgreat overseas experiment for a second year (as reported on this website here) andit may well be another typically savvy GRM decision from the team that brought youSteven Richards, Garth Tander, Jamie Whincup, Lee Holdsworth and MichaelCaruso, amongst others.
Put simply, 2012 was thefirst full season where Premat didn’tdrive a racing car that featured aero and mechanical grip over horsepower andlimited amounts of traction.
Premats’ career has beendriven through open wheelers – cars with massive grip and requiring a finesseand accuracy to drive. His career was spent in cars that always had plenty of availabletyre grip, aerodynamic performance and cornering speed.
Now consigned to the DunlopSeries, the existing V8 Supercars were a unique animal to steer.
Drivers would tell you that they were brutal, requiring smooth driving tomaximise tyre life – remember, these are heavy beasts – whilst at the same timebeing aggressive behind the wheel to muscle the cars into a corner and overkerbs.
Whereas Premat could use aDTM car’s aerodynamics and massive grip generated by big tyres and Formula One-style suspension to corner quickly – a V8 Supercar was vastly differentfor the Frenchman and required a vastly different driving style to adapt.
V8 Supercars of the pastcouldn’t be thrown into a corner with a raw belief that they would grip – they neededto be slowed well into the apex before feeding 640hp to the rear wheels withoutburning up the tyres.
In terms of driving style, thesecars have been so removed from other forms of Touring Car racing that driverswho have come from overseas at the top of their game to drive them have beensent home packing pretty quickly.
British Touring CarChampions Matt Neal and Jason Plato spring to mind and only a few, like AndyPriaulx and Yvan Muller, succeeded in the cars relatively quickly after jumpinginto one for the first time.
However, Premat’s experiencedid come to the fore throughout 2012 and by the season-ending Sydney Telstra500 and after a tortuous learning experience, he was as competitive as anyone. Andwhen you are competitive you get out of the fierce mid-pack war which is whereall the damage and collisions occur.
Get out of that and youstand a much better shot at sustained success in this most competitive ofcategories – were the full field can be covered by one second or less.
Now with a (more) levelplaying field thank to Car of the Future Premat will enter the new season muchmore confident – and he will be buoyed with what he experiences when he gets behindthe wheel.
Do you remember the firstimpressions Neil Crompton and Mark Skaife both had when they first drove theHolden and Ford COTF prototypes back in Sydney, at the end of 2011? Both, to atee, 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 theirmotor racing apprenticeships’, racing in the Gold Star.
And that’s what will perkAlex Premat up significantly.
His career CV showcases carsjust like what those two were talking about: Formula Renault (title winner),Formula Three (Macau Grand Prix winner), GP2 (third, the same year LewisHamilton won the title) and A1 Grand Prix (helping team France to the title).
His time in DTM was spent incars that are all-but open-wheelers with carbon bodies and he impressed there,too.
V8 Supercars COTF offers alot of what Premat is used to. Those to have driven them already liken themmore to a GT car than an existing V8 Supercar and that will be music to AlexPremat’s ears.
The new cars turn, they gripand they go hard.
It could be just the tonicfor a driver who despite an incredible wealth of success and experience wasn’table to showcase what he was capable of in the challenging, old-school V8’s oflast year.
The V8’s of the future,however, are much more up his alley and could well lead Garry Rogers intosuccess that will vindicate his decision to continue Fujitsu Racing’s FrenchConnection.