The sixth round of the 2011 V8 Supercars Championship season gets underway this weekend, with the teams heading to the ‘Top End’ for the SkyCity Triple Crown at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway.
And with there being a whole host of winners – albeit largely from the Holden camp – this year to-date, fans could well see another different race-winner this weekend.
Let’s take a look at the form guide and some of the talking points leading into this weekend’s event…
A 2.9-kilometre anticlockwise circuit located on the fringes of the city of Darwin, Hidden Valley Raceway is known for its high speeds and fast lap-times. It’s been on the V8 Supercars calendar since 1998.
For a V8 Supercar to be quick around here, it needs enough mechanical grip to handle the circuit’s 14 turns, as well as plenty of top-end speed to manage the 1.1-kilometre main straight.
Turn 1 – a left-hand hairpin that tightens as it goes on – is the best spot for overtaking, but the gravel trap lining its outer edge has played host to many drivers who have left their braking far too late in trying to pass a rival. Passing opportunities also exist a Turns 5 and 6, while the rest of the lap is rather more ‘follow the leader’ until the cars hit the start/finish straight once again.
Qualifying is important at Hidden Valley, with 70% of races here being won from the front row. Only one has a race-winner started outside the top eight.
A widely popular event in the tropical north of the country, the drivers will face two races this weekend: a 42-lap race on Saturday with a two-part qualifying session, and a 69-lap race on Sunday (with a single 20-minute qualifying session) where teams will be required to run both Dunlop dry-weather tyre compounds.
If history is any guide, then Team Vodafone and Ford Performance Racing are the form teams at Hidden Valley Raceway.
Of the thirteen races held here since 2006, they have won nine between them, with Team Vodafone taking five, and Ford Performance Racing the remaining four. Last year’s event saw Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom (pictured) swap the top-two places on the podium, on a race weekend that saw ‘Frosty’ kick-start his tilt at the championship with his first win of the season.
While Whincup seemingly has little trouble racking up the wins and podiums as he disappears into the championship lead, Winterbottom has endured a more difficult season with his Ford. He currently lies a distant tenth in the Drivers’ Championship standings. With the recent and tragic death of his mother just weeks ago, he will be looking to reclaim honours this weekend.
Another driver who will be looking for a strong weekend is Winton race-winner Jason Bright, who has a rotten record at the Top End. Without a top-ten result in either qualifying or the races since 2006, this really is one of his bogey circuits he’ll need to get on top of if he’s to maintain his run in the championship.
Conversely, Irwin Racing’s Alex Davison will be one driver to watch, having enjoyed a strong run of results at Darwin in the last few years. He took his maiden podium and pole position in 2009, and was on course for another podium finish last year until electrical gremlins struck.
Changes to the broadcast laws mean that this is the first event that the Seven network will actually show live, having finally gained permission to broadcast the events on its sister 7mate channel.
Of course, Richard’s F1 will be bring you all the news and action from Darwin, so make sure you keep visiting our website for the latest!
[Image via Flickr]