The fifth round of this year’s V8 Supercars Championship sees the field head west, with the touring cars set to go head-to-head at Barbagallo Raceway, north of Perth.
Past history suggests this will be a battle between the Red Bull Racing and Ford Performance Racing teams, although momentum is very much with the latter after Mark Winterbottom took the Drivers’ Championship lead last time out in New Zealand.
|2014 V8 SUPERCARS PERTH 400||Date:||16-18 May 2014|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:10-10:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 12:10-12:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 14:05-14:25|
|Race 14 Qualifying||Sat 10:15-10:25|
|Race 15 Qualifying||Sat 10:35-10:45|
|Race 14 (42 laps)||Sat 12:25-13:15|
|Race 15 (42 laps)||Sat 14:30-15:20|
|Race 16 Qualifying||Sun 10:35-10:55|
|Race 16 (83 laps)||Sun 13:50-15:20|
* All session times are quoted in Australian Western Standard Time (GMT +08:00 hrs)
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, leading 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.
The Form Guide
Outside of reigning champions Red Bull Racing and the aspirant Ford Performance Racing stables, only one other team – Brad Jones Racing – has tasted victory out west since 2008. Between the two factory stables, they’ve won thirteen of the last fourteen races held here.
It’s a telling statistic that suggests both RBR and FPR should remain on top here this weekend, but momentum is very much with FPR after Mark Winterbottom’s two wins in Auckland which catapulted him into the lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings. ‘Frosty’ is a four-time winner here, and going on recent form it’s hard not to see why he won’t increase that tally of victories here this weekend.
Trailing 107 points behind is Craig Lowndes, who could break Mark Skaife’s record of the most victories at a single circuit if he wins two of this weekend’s three races. Lowndes has tasted victory here fourteen times – although only twice since 2000! – and he could draw level of better Skaife’s record of fifteen wins claimed at the now defunct Oran Park circuit in Sydney.
Lowndes’ teammate Jamie Whincup has endured a tough start to his title defence. Despite claiming three wins to-date in 2014 – the same tally as Winterbottom – he lies sixth in the championship standings, 166 points behind the Ford driver, having failed to finish on the podium in his last seven hit-outs. However, his record at Barbagallo is formidable: in the last twelve races here, he’s claimed five wins and finished off the podium just once.
Between Whincup and Lowndes in the standings are Fabian Coulthard, fourth-placed James Courtney and fifth-placed Shane van Gisbergen, none of whom have ever finished on the podium here. Van Gisbergen was a winner last time out in Pukekohe, but he has proven susceptible to high tyre wear – that’s a huge likelihood here.
The works HRT Holdens have also shown better form of late, with Courtney in particular emerging as a potential championship candidate if his recent run of form continues. Teammate Garth Tander will be keen to perform well at his home race, and he’s in dire need of a solid result.
Walkinshaw stablemates Tim Slade and Nick Percat are giving their factory-branded teammates a run for their money. Slade had a front-row start at Pukekohe squandered with a clutch failure, while Percat continues to come on strong in his maiden season with a hat-trick of top-ten finishes in New Zealand.
One must not discount the new Volvos, however, who will have their first outing here in the new S60. Scott McLaughlin has shown an impressive turn of pace – he’s the strongest qualifier when the grid’s performances to-date are aggregated – and perhaps he can finally break through with his first championship-level win for the Swedish carmaker.
The Nissans and Erebus AMGs have also shown an improved turn of speed in recent races, however the Barbagallo layout could hurt the Mercs given they are still a little down in straightline speed.
Nissan’s Michael Caruso will celebrate his 200th race start when he takes to the grid for Saturday’s opening race. The Norton Hornets pilot earned his best of the season – fifth – in the last race at Pukekohe.
Team JELD-WEN’s Jack Perkins will clock up fifty race starts this weekend, and he’ll be hoping that this milestone gives him a performance boost after what has proven to be a torrid full-time return to the V8 Supercars Championship. He remains the only driver in the field yet to crack the top-ten in qualifying, but this is a circuit he has results at, having won a race in last year’s Dunlop feeder series.
Images via Ford Performance Racing, Zimbio