Just a few days ago, V8 Supercars fans were treated to a dominant display of driving by championship leader Jamie Whincup, as he claimed back-to-back wins at Symmons Plains Raceway.
And now the circus heads to Melbourne’s historic Sandown Raceway to do battle once more on the calendar’s only sequence of back-to-back events, for the penultimate round of the championship season, the Norton 360 Sandown Challenge.
Richard’s F1 previews this weekend’s action and takes a look at some of the talking points leading into the event…
|2011 NORTON 360 SANDOWN CHALLENGE
|Date:||18-20 November 2011||Lap Length:||3.104km|
|Race Lap Record:||1:09.8573, Garth Tander (Holden Commodore VE) – 2009|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-10:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 11:30-12:00|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 12:45-13:15|
|Free Practice Session 4||Fri 14:20-14:50|
|Race 1 Qualifying||Sat 11:15-11:35|
|Race 1 (39 laps, 121km)||Sat 16:05-17:15|
|Race 2 Qualifying||Sun 11:15-11:35|
|Race 2 (65 laps, 202km)||Sun 15:35-17:15|
|Past Winners:||Paul Dumbrell (Ford Falcon FG)||2010 (Race 1)|
|James Courtney (Ford Falcon FG)||2010 (Race 2)|
Located about 25km south-east of Melbourne’s city centre, Sandown International Raceway is something of an institution on the Australian motorsport landscape, having played host to more rounds of the Australian Touring Car / V8 Supercars Championship than any other venue. This year’s running will mark the 42nd time that the series has visited this high-speed circuit.
The circuit was first opened in 1962, the track played host to the non-championship Australian Grand Prix on six occasions. In 1964, the venue staged a six-hour international touring car race, which would eventually gain fame as the Sandown 500. Next year’s V8 Supercars calendar will see the Sandown 500 make its return to the endurance race schedule.
Featuring two long straights, the track is known for its high speeds and great slipstreaming battles, with the best overtaking spots being at the Turn 1 and Turn 9 left-handers, which are the track’s heaviest braking zones.
Built within the confines of a horse-racing facility, its safety barriers are positioned very closely to the margins of the circuit at some points, and circuit run-off is limited.
A look back at 2010
Last year’s running of the Norton 360 Sandown Challenge was unique in that both races were red-flagged (and restarted) after heavy accidents at the fast Turn 6 left-hand sweep at the end of the track’s 910-metre back straight.
Saturday’s race was stopped after Garth Tander ploughed into the barrier due to a puncture. The race was won by Bottle-O Racing driver Paul Dumbrell, who claimed his maiden championship win after eleven years of trying. He was pushed hard right to the chequered flag, just holding out Jamie Whincup for victory, with Mark Winterbottom completing the podium.
Sunday’s race was halted when Will Davison and Michael Caruso collided and both slammed into the barriers. Once restarted, the year’s three championship contenders finished on the podium to keep the title fight going into the season-ending Sydney Telstra 500, with James Courtney winning from Winterbottom and Whincup.
The Players and Form Guide
After his two dominant wins at Tasmania, Whincup’s championship lead over team-mate Craig Lowndes is now a hefty 194 points. With just four races left to go, Lowndes needs to pull out all stops and rely on some misfortune for Whincup if he is to close the points’ gap.
In any respect, it’s a Team Vodafone 1-2 this year, with the pair enjoying enough of a margin in the championship standings over the rest of the field that means they cannot be caught by the chasing pack.
But Lowndes should not be discounted either, as his eight wins here makes him the most successful driver ever at this anti-clockwise circuit.
Behind this pair, the battle for third place in the championship standings is heating up. Two top-four finishes for Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom has now seen him overtake Shane van Gisbergen (Stone Brother Ford) in the standings, with a tiny margin of just 14 points separating the pair.
A further 14 points behind is Holden Racing Team driver Garth Tander, who also enjoyed a solid weekend in Tasmania.
Further down the field, Jason Bright’s participation is still under a cloud after he withdrew from the second race at Symmons Plains with a cracked rib. The Brad Jones Racing veteran has since undergone treatment to repair the injury, and he’s facing a stern challenge to be fit enough to tackle 300 kilometres of wheel-to-wheel racing.
Russell Ingall will also become the fifth most-experienced driver in the history of the ATCC / V8 Supercars championship when he takes to the grid on Saturday. It will be his 203rd championship event, meaning he now sits only behind John Bowe (225), Mark Skaife (220), Peter Brock (212) and Glenn Seton (209) on the all-time list. Having just been signed to race for Walkinshaw Performance Racing in 2012, Ingall will move to third on the all-time list before the end of next year.
This weekend’s entry list reads as follows:
|Team / Entry||Driver|
|1.||TOLL Holden Racing Team / Walkinshaw Performance||James Courtney|
|2.||TOLL Holden Racing Team / Walkinshaw Performance||Garth Tander|
|3.||Wilson Security Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing||Tony D’Alberto|
|4.||Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||Alex Davison|
|5.||Orrcon Racing / Ford Performance Racing||Mark Winterbottom|
|6.||Trading Post Racing / Ford Performance Racing||Will Davison|
|7.||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Kelly Racing||Todd Kelly|
|8.||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||Jason Bright|
|9.||SP Tools Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||Shane van Gisbergen|
|11.||Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing||Greg Murphy|
|12.||Westrac Racing / Triple F Racing||Dean Fiore|
|14.||Jana Living Racing / Brad Jones Racing||Jason Bargwanna|
|15.||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Kelly Racing||Rick Kelly|
|16.||Stratco Racing / Kelly Racing||David Reynolds|
|17.||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||Steven Johnson|
|18.||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||James Moffat|
|19.||Mother Energy Racing Team / Tekno Autosports||Jonathon Webb|
|21.||Fair Dunkum Sheds Racing / Britek & Brad Jones Racing||Karl Reindler|
|30.||Gulf Western Oil Racing / Lucas Dumbrell||Warren Luff|
|33.||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||Lee Holdsworth|
|34.||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||Michael Caruso|
|39.||SuperCheap Auto Racing / Paul Morris Motorsport||Russell Ingall|
|47.||Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||Tim Slade|
|49.||VIP Petfoods Racing / Paul Morris Motorsport||Steve Owen|
|55.||Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash & FPR||Paul Dumbrell|
|61.||Bundaberg Racing / Walkinshaw Performance||Fabian Coulthard|
|88.||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Race Engineering||Jamie Whincup|
|888.||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Race Engineering||Craig Lowndes|
* Subject to final confirmation
[Images via Ford Performance Racing, SpeedCafe, Team Vodafone, Total Travel]