Booth ready for the win

He led plenty of laps, had plenty of speed, but didn't take a race or round win during the first 2012 V8 SuperTourer season – and that was a surprise to many, including the drivers. At Hampton Downs he was always at the sharp end and as the 2013 Season of BNT V8 SuperTourers looms large, Andy Booth will head back to the North Waikato track determined to stand on the top step of the podium. We caught up with the Woodstock Holden driver to recall 2012 and look forward to the coming season.

V8ST - What did you enjoy most about your first season in V8 SuperTourers?
AB - Just being part of it! That and being involved in such a level playing field for the first time in a lot of years.

V8ST - What was the most frustrating aspect?
AB – No question, it was leading as many laps as I did throughout the season and NOT scoring a race win.

V8ST - How does the closeness of the racing compare to what you have done before?
AB - I've been fortunate to race in some seriously competitive race series over the years and V8ST without doubt is right up there in terms of competition and closeness. Knowing that you turn up to each race with exactly the same opportunity to win as every other car makes it hugely satisfying when you run at the front.

V8ST - What, if anything, would you do to change the racing?
AB - Not much! The V8ST specific racing rules introduced by our series IPO Ross Thurston have been bang on and not only have they improved the racing spectacle but have made the racing on track some of the most enjoyable I've ever done.

V8ST - We tried a few qualifying formats in Season 1 - what was your favourite?
AB - There were a few variations to qualifying formats, some of them were pretty confusing, simple is better! For the two driver events I liked the qualifying where the co-drive had to qualify the car as well as the regular driver. This puts more emphasis on co-driver performance and I believe the contribution to the weekend result should be pretty much 50/50 between the drivers.

V8ST - How easy are the cars to set up?
AB - With so many limitations on what you can adjust the opportunities to get it really badly wrong are limited. The focus is on very small changes to suit the changing track conditions and driving style, the cars are so incredibly sensitive to subtle changes in driving that the driver is ultimately more tune-able than the car.

V8ST - Is there a particular way to drive a SuperTourer?
AB - Yes, the right way...... still working out what that is though!

V8ST - Can you make it go faster, but at the expense of the tyres?
AB - To a point but the tyre is so durable that you just lean on it as hard as you can most of the time (see below)

V8ST - And what about the tyres, your impressions of the Hankooks?
AB - Absolutely bloody amazing! The only downside is that they're maybe too good. The durability and consistency of the dry tyre is like nothing I've experienced before and if anything I think the racing would improve and involve a little more strategy if the tyre performance dropped away a little more over a race.

V8ST - Drivers with experience from every major racing category in the world have taken part in Season 1 - what is it that makes this sort of spec formula attractive for drivers?
AB - The strength of the competition and the level playing field.

V8ST - In the current climate, most major racing countries are either following the spec philosophy or moving towards it - does NZ have a head start in that respect?
AB - Most racing series are moving away from costly and unsustainable racing through technical development and focusing on racing as entertainment providing a high quality viewing spectacle. NZ is certainly right up there on that model as it best suits our economic scale.

V8ST - There have been quite a few new sponsors large and small to motorsport this season thanks to V8ST - what do you think they like about it?
AB - V8ST has given them something new and exciting that's grabbed their attention. More importantly it offers a truly commercially orientated platform (rather than purely sporting) to run promotional and entertaining activities from. Teams and sponsors have to work hard together to maximise the returns but I personally see more opportunity and potential in V8ST than any other form of motorsport I've seen in this country since I started racing.....and that's quite a while!

V8ST - Drivers, teams, cars have all been accessible to the public over the race weekends, is that important?
AB - More than important, it's vital !! 'Elite' just doesn't work in NZ, the fans want to be able to get up close to the cars, talk to the teams and be able to natter with the drivers. Ultimately people and personalities are actually more interesting than cars and the way to gain a true, loyal public following is by them getting to know the drivers and teams members as real people, real characters - good and bad.

V8ST - A neat aspect has been the sharing of drivers in enduros across the Tasman – is this a trend that can continue in a productive way for the teams and the drivers?
AB - All the interest from across the Tasman has been fantastic and the drivers who've come across seem to really enjoy the cars and more relaxed environment at our events.

V8ST - Have you been impressed with the speed of the champion Scott McLaughlin?
AB - Begrudginly yes! Seriously though, you can't help but be impressed with the kid. I wouldn't say this about many people but I'm a genuine Scott McLaughlin fan and believe he's the next big Kiwi touring car hero.....watch this space.

V8ST - You almost certainly led the most laps of any driver not to win a race - how do you fix that?
AB - I guess stay leading the race would be a good start?? We need to work on a car set up/driving mix that sees the car hold on to its pace better through to the end on the race. We got dudded several times through the year when we had a strong lead and then the safety emerged for one reason or another (or none?) and the car just didn't quite have the pace at the restart to defend the lead.

V8ST - You seem to be very fast at Hampton Downs - what's the secret there?
AB - Buggered if I know!! I'd never raced there before last season and if I was to be honest I'd pick as a track that may not suit my natural driving style. As it turns out I get on well with the place so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.

V8ST - With your connections established with Tony D'Alberto, might we see you venture into a few Supercar enduro races in 2013?
AB - We couldn't be happier with the decision to put Tony in the car, it was a bit of a gamble as I did not know him at all prior to the first event but he's impressed everyone on the team with his easy going nature and how quickly he's adapted to the new tracks. He's also become a good mate to me and the rest of the team and one of the priorities at Woodstock Racing is that no matter what your CV says, you have to fit in with our bunch of wacky racers! If Tony feels like reciprocating with a co-drive in Australia then I certainly won't be saying no!!

V8ST - There's always smiles and a welcoming atmosphere at the Booth pit garage - is that a team philosophy or does it just come naturally from you?
AB - I'm not so sure it's a 'philosophy' as just the way we like to do things. We take our racing seriously but try not to take ourselves too seriously. We're there for the same reason as the fans - we like racing! They like talking to us and we like talking to them, pretty simple really. Sure there's times when pressure's on and we have pull the doors down and focus but generally we like to keep a welcome open door.

V8ST - Are the V8ST cars more like single seaters or the old taxis to set up?
AB - That's a good question, the V8ST is definitely a pure bred race car and is a lot more sensitive to change than a more production based touring car. Not in single seater territory but more like a sports car or GT3 Porsche.

Andy Booth Woodstock Holden

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