Jim Beam Racing’s Steve Johnson was unable to capitalise on a bold strategy in Race 13 of the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway today. Improving his qualifying performance over Saturday’s race by five spots, Johnson again started on the Dunlop Sprint tyre figuring track position would be all important in a two or three stop race.
The start was a messy affair with Caruso stalling on the grid and the usual turmoil at Turn 1 all of which vaulted a quick starting Johnson to P12 at the end of Lap 1. A number of drivers were in trouble including Slade, Owen and Rick Kelly from the crash as the field started to settle down. Johnson climbed into the top 10 by lap 5 and was in sight of the leaders when a Safety Car was called for an incident with Bright and David Russell at the last corner. The Pit Lane came alive as 21 cars all dived in. Johnson was again running a reverse strategy from the bulk of the field and although he emerged in 9th place was now on the harder Dunlop Prime Tyre as all the drivers around him had switched to the soft compound.
Once the Safety Car pulled off, Steve was in a very frustrating position as he tumbled 10 spots in just 5 laps. This period of the race effectively sealed Johnson’s fate as he would not have track position relative to the leaders when he took his last stop on Lap 52. Although he punched out his best race lap on Lap 54, the damage had been done and he crossed the line in 19th place.
“We tried again today to mix up the strategy but the Safety Car probably hit us at the wrong time and we just got belted in the middle stint.” Johnson said. “If you do something different and it works you look like a hero but when it doesn’t it bites you. We still need to work on the overall balance of the car and focus on a result in Townsville.” Johnson concluded.