The V8 Supercars Championship’s season opener at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide was an historic event for the Volvo Polestar Racing team, which saw Scott McLaughlin score an emotional podium in Race 2 after qualifying the team’s brand new S60 racer on the front row of the grid.
For the New Zealander’s teammate Robert Dahlgren, his first weekend was simply about getting to grips with the new car, circuit and championship. Sure, he qualified and ran towards the rear of the field, but the first few outings are the start of a very steep learning curve for the Swede.
“Where to start?” he told RichardsF1.com, when asked about the adjustment to the V8 Supercars Championship, shortly before today’s Australian Grand Prix track run media event hosted by Mark Webber (pictured above).
“Driving on the right-hand side has been fine, but gear changing with my left hand has actually been the greater challenge, particularly gear changes mid-corner.
“These cars are very soft in the suspension and have a lot of body roll, meaning you can’t throw it around through the corners, and I realised quickly that I was running quite deep into the turns. It brought a quick change in my driving style.”
The early successes for the team may not be a constant theme throughout the season, but it provides Dahlgren with plenty of confidence that he too can make his mark, once he finds his feet.
“For now, my challenge is to run closer to Scott’s pace. Obviously the S60 has plenty of pace, and I just have to get up to speed as soon as possible.
“But I’ve had all of one day of pre-season testing in the car at Sydney Motorsport Park, most of which was on a damp track. All up, I think I had less than a dozen dry condition laps before I came to Adelaide for the first round.”
With the four-race format at Albert Park having non-championship status, the event is something of a risk-free environment for the 34-year-old to gain more time behind the wheel. While the results count for little more than a bit of pride, the Scandinavian touring car veteran is confident he can put in a good showing.
“Everybody is expecting me to nominate Bathurst as the event I’m most looking forward to, but I’m actually excited about racing here,” he continued.
“I’ve followed Formula 1 and the V8 Supercars Championship for so long, and this is the only event where the two are combined. I only ever imagine I’d pay to come here, but now I’m getting paid to come here!
“The Albert Park circuit should be a lot better for me. It has barely any elevation change, bigger and flatter kerbs, so it won’t upset the car balance so much. That will allow me to fine-tune my set up and get to grips with the car.”
While he might be the only European in the V8 Supercars field, he certainly won’t be the only Swede in the paddock this weekend, with his compatriot, Marcus Ericsson, making his Grand Prix debut with the Caterham F1 Team.
“I caught up with Marcus yesterday and he’s a really nice guy; he will be a great ambassador for Sweden in Formula 1,” Dahlgren added.
“I’m really pleased he’s been able to make it into F1 and he deserves this chance. Of course his results will be dictated – to an extent – by the pace of development at Caterham and where they sit in the field.”
Dahlgren’s first outing around Albert Park will come on Thursday with two thirty-minute practice sessions before qualifying in the evening.
Images via Motorsport.com and Robert Dahlgren
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