The fourth round of the 2011 V8 Supercars Championship kicks off this weekend, with Australia’s premier tin-top series making a long-awaited return to Western Australia to compete in the Trading Post Perth event at Barbagallo Raceway.
After being a regular fixture on the championship calendar, the 2.4-kilometre circuit was missing from the 2010 championship diary, much to the disappointment of the many fans in the country’s west, as well as the drivers and teams who enjoy the challenging nature of the circuit.
And those at the front will be watching everything going on around them, with the equivalent of a single race win (150 championship points) covering the top eight drivers in the points’ standings in this year’s 27-race V8 Supercars Championship season.
Sunday’s first race will mark a special milestone in the history of the Australian Touring Car Championship / V8 Supercars Championship: it will be the 750th ATCC/V8SC race since the championship was launched in 1960. Of the 748 races held to this point, Barbagallo has hosted 66 of them, hosting an event of the ATCC/V8SC every year from 1978 to 2009.
Originally opened in 1969 as Wanneroo Park, the circuit – located 50km north of Perth – held a non-championship Australian Grand Prix in 1979, and in 1992 it was renamed Barbagallo raceway in honour of the prominent motorsport identity, Alf Barbagallo, who helped fund major work to improve the circuit.
The seven-turn circuit produces a high-speed and short lap-time of less than a minute for this championship, and it calls on drivers and engineers to ensure they have a well set-up car. The opening section is narrow and twisty, feeding on to the hill on the far side of the track. The off-camber Turn 6 feeds the drivers back in the other direction on the track’s longest straight towards the final corner, a 90-degree right-hander at the bottom of a steep hill and a test for the cars.
And of the 2011 championship grid, there is just one man who stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field with his race record here, and that’s Team Vodafone driver Craig Lowndes. The three-time champion has an astounding record at the circuit, with 13 wins from 37 starts at the track, including the last race contested here in 2009.
Incredibly, at every one of the twelve races he contested here between 1996 and 2000, he won the lot. His qualifying speed certainly isn’t at all shabby either, for he’s only once qualified outside the top-ten and has four pole positions to his name at this circuit.
Sunday will be run entirely on Dunlop’s Soft tyre option. There will be a single 20-minute qualifying session, where the drivers’ fastest times determine their grid positions for Sunday’s first 50-lap race, while their second-fastest times determine their grid positions for the second 50-lap race.
As usual, Richard’s F1 will be bringing you all of the action from Australia’s major touring car championship series over the weekend.
[Images via Flickr]