Shepherd thrilled with Supercar test

AAA Rowan (940 x 450)

Competitive championships are hard to win on any sport, but to do it twice in a row is even tougher.

2021 Toyota 86 Champion Rowan Shepherd came back to defend his title with the extra motivation of a prize Supercar test drive for the winner. And it was a case of he came back, he saw, he conquered. He won his dream opportunity and grasped it with both hands.

We caught up with Rowan to get the lowdown on a golden moment for the popular champion.


TGRNZ: Tell us first about the sequence of events – arrive, factory, seat fitting etc just to set the scene for the readers?

RS - Well, first off I was super impressed with the Triple Eight Race Engineering headquarters as soon as I arrived. We were straight into it with meeting all the team, looking at all the cars including the new GEN 3 race car. I got into my race suit and was ready to take my first sit in a Supercar. Luckily it fitted like a glove. 


TGRNZ: How big was the team running the test for you?

RS - There were around 15 team members running the two cars and all team members have very clear tasks. An impressive team to sit back and watch operating  to be honest.


TGRNZ: Shane van Gisbergen and Craig Lowndes were present – what were their roles?

RS - Shane was there to mentor us through the day and simply make us comfortable. His style of feedback suited me as some drivers give too much feedback that you feel a little lost once you are back out on track. Simple and clear things do work.


TGRNZ: What aspects of the car did the team brief you on beforehand?

RS - Actually that was relatively straightforward. Compared to a GT3 car which has an overdose of dials and adjustments, the Supercar had everything you needed and no more. I haven't driven anything with in car anti-roll bar adjustments so it was entertaining to adjust these around the circuit and learn the effect they have on the cars handling.


TGRNZ: Did you have any experience of the circuit? Even on a sim?

RS – Hahaha no. I have never completed a lap in Australia and my sim is now very old and tired!


TGRNZ: Did the team give you target things to work on or just let you go out and send it?

RS - There were no targets and the main objective was to just enjoy the experience and learn.


TGRNZ: Driving out onto the track for the first time…you must have had to pinch yourself?

RS - After the second lap, I felt like a real Supercar driver. I'll never forget that feeling. The noise, the anger and the way it moves around would make anyone smile.


TGRNZ: What were the things that impressed you about the car?

RS - The braking was amazing, the nose of the car really takes a dive into the heavy braking areas. I was nervous about locking a tyre as I hadn't driving a non-ABS car in a few years but I managed to keep the tyres circular!


TGRNZ: Was it everything you expected?

RS - It sounds cheesy but I'll never forget the experience and out of all cars I've driven, this would be my favourite.


TGRNZ: What feedback were you able to give the team and what feedback did they give you?

RS - The feedback was really positive and everyone in the garage could tell I was just loving being there. I wasn’t there to punch out the best lap of the day, but just to soak it up and enjoy it.


TGRNZ: As a champion driver, you have a high skill level but did you learn anything about your particular strengths and weaknesses from the experience?

RS - It was clear in my data that I have mastered the skills of lower horsepower cars and understand how they work. Shane kept training me to stop focusing on mid corner speed and instead focus on 'V' shaping the hairpins to allow better throttle modulation on exit. I was certainly quickest in the middle of the corner but not on the way out.


TGRNZ: And after the dust has settled, what will be your lasting impressions?

RS - I'm still buzzing and I can't thank Tony Quinn and Toyota enough for the opportunity. We have so many drivers in NZ limited by budget it's a great thing to work towards. I can't wait to see who gets the next opportunity!