V8s Symmons Plains

After three action-packed ‘endurance’ rounds at Phillip Island, Bathurst and Surfers Paradise, the V8 Supercars Championship reverts to its traditional racing format, making its only visit across the Bass Strait to contest the Falken Tasmania Challenge at Symmons Plains Raceway.

Having temporarily lost his season-long championship lead at Bathurst, Team Vodafone’s Jamie Whincup quickly redressed the balance with a solid weekend on the Gold Coast, while team-mate and main championship rival Craig Lowndes fell in a heap with two mechanically-affected races. Who will come out on top in Tasmania?

Richard’s F1 previews this weekend’s action and takes a look at some of the talking points leading into the event…

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The Circuit

2011 FALKEN TASMANIA CHALLENGE
Symmons Plains Raceway
Date: 11-13 November 2011 Lap Length: 2.410km
Race Lap Record: 51.4713s, Rick Kelly (Holden Commodore VE) – 2009
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Fri 10:30-11:00
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 11:50-12:20
Free Practice Session 3 Fri 13:00-13:30
Free Practice Session 4 Fri 14:10-14:40
Race 1 Qualifying Sat 11:20-11:40
Race 1 (50 laps, 120km) Sat 16:05-17:15
  Race 2 Qualifying Sun 12:30-12:50
Race 2 (84 laps, 202km) Sun 15:35-17:15
Past Winners: Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore VE) 2010 (Race 1)
  Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG) 2010 (Race 2)

Located about 30 kilometres south of Tasmania’s second-largest city, Launceston, Symmons Plains Raceway has been the premier motor-racing facility on the ‘Apple Isle’.

Aside from Sandown Raceway, Symmons Plains is the second longest-serving circuit in the combined history of the Australian Touring Car and the V8 Supercars Championships, and this year’s event will be the 39th time that the touring cars have come to the venue.

The track played host to rounds of the championship every year between 1969-99 before dropping off the calendar and returning in 2004. Ahead of its return, the circuit received a $3 million upgrade that saw some modifications to the track’s layout – primarily being a relocation of the start/finish line to being opposite the pits.

This narrow rifle-shaped circuit is a popular venue for drivers and teams, and despite its short layout and tight confines, the track presents two very good overtaking opportunities each lap. Its extremely tight and (unusually) banked hairpin bend, known as Brambles Hairpin, is one such spot, although it relies on the driver ahead cooperating with the move. The second main passing spot is into the penultimate corner after the cars blast along the circuit’s long sprint between Brambles Hairpin and Turn 6.

The heavy stopping points place a premium on brake wear.

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The Players and Form Guide

This year’s championship contenders, Team Vodafone drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, are on track to claim a 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship standings, although the main focus will be on who gets the upper hand with only six races left in the championship season.

A disastrous weekend on the Gold Coast for Lowndes saw his lead in the standings (which he assumed at the preceding round in Bathurst) being very short-lived, and now Whincup enjoys a 143-point lead in the title race.

The pair could become the first team-mates since Marco Ambrose and Russell Ingall finished 1-2 in the 2004 season, driving for Stone Brothers Racing. This has only happened in seven previous seasons of the championship’s history.

Holden could also claim its 400th race win this weekend, if it wins both races at Symmons Plains. It now sits miles ahead of Ford’s 291 wins, and it looks odds-on to rack up the 400th given that ‘The General’ has won nineteen of the twenty-two races to-date in 2011.

Whincup and HRT driver Garth Tander enjoy, by far and away, the best record at Symmons Plains, with the pair having claimed 12 of the last 16 race wins at this venue. Whincup has five wins, while Tander has seven – the pair has also claimed pole position on five of the previous six occasions here.

But the pair should not discount Lowndes, who has won here six times already, and he’ll be eager to claim maximum points this weekend to keep his championship hopes alive.

 

This weekend’s entry list reads as follows:

Team / Entry Driver
1. TOLL Holden Racing Team / Walkinshaw Performance Holden James Courtney
2. TOLL Holden Racing Team / Walkinshaw Performance Holden Garth Tander
3. Wilson Security Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing Ford Tony D’Alberto
4. Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing Ford Alex Davison
5. Orrcon Racing / Ford Performance Racing Ford Mark Winterbottom
6. Trading Post Racing / Ford Performance Racing Ford Will Davison
7. Jack Daniel’s Racing / Kelly Racing Holden Todd Kelly
8. Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing Holden Jason Bright
9. SP Tools Racing / Stone Brothers Racing Ford Shane van Gisbergen
11. Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing Holden Greg Murphy
12. Westrac Racing / Triple F Racing Ford Dean Fiore
14. Jana Living Racing / Brad Jones Racing Holden Jason Bargwanna
15. Jack Daniel’s Racing / Kelly Racing Holden Rick Kelly
16. Stratco Racing / Kelly Racing Holden David Reynolds
17. Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing Ford Steven Johnson
18. Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing Ford James Moffat
19. Mother Energy Racing Team / Tekno Autosports Ford Jonathon Webb
21. Fair Dunkum Sheds Racing / Britek & Brad Jones Racing Holden Karl Reindler
30. Gulf Western Oil Racing / Lucas Dumbrell Holden Warren Luff
33. Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden Lee Holdsworth
34. Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden Michael Caruso
39. SuperCheap Auto Racing / Paul Morris Motorsport Holden Russell Ingall
47. Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing Ford Tim Slade
49. VIP Petfoods Racing / Paul Morris Motorsport Holden Steve Owen
55. Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash & FPR Ford Paul Dumbrell
61. Bundaberg Racing / Walkinshaw Performance Holden Fabian Coulthard
88. Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Race Engineering Holden Jamie Whincup
888. Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Race Engineering Holden Craig Lowndes
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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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