This weekend sees the V8 Supercars Championship field grid up for the final Super Sprint round before the Pirtek Enduro Cup races at Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast get underway.
|2015 V8 Supercars Championship – Sydney Motorsport Park SuperSprint|
|Date||21-23 August 2015||Lap Length||3.930km|
|Free Practice Session 0*||Fri 10:10-10:40||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 11:25-12:25|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 13:50-14:50||Free Practice Session 3||Sat 09:55-10:10|
|Qualifying – Race 21||Sat 11:40-11:50||Qualifying – Race 22||Sat 12:05-12:15|
|Race 21 (16 laps)||Sat 14:25-15:00||Race 22 (16 laps)||Sat 16:35-17:10|
|Qualifying – Race 23||Sun 11:45-12:05||Race 23 (52 laps)||Sat 14:00-15:30|
* Open to Pirtek Enduro Cup co-drivers only
Session times quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT +10:00)
Located in Sydney’s outer western suburbs, the Sydney Motorsport Park is Australia’s only FIA Grade 2 International licensed permanent circuit. The track staged both motorcycle and car races for many years, hosting high-profile events such as the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and three rounds of the A1 Grand Prix championship.
The track quickly became a favourite amongst riders and drivers alike, the circuit offers a variety of challenging and technical corners on a layout that offers a number of passing opportunities around the lap.
The circuit first hosted the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1992 and it remained on the calendar for all but two years until 2008. Dropped from the calendar in 2009, it was a last-minute addition to the calendar in 2012.
In 2013, the circuit received $7 million worth of government funding to co-finance a major upgrade of the circuit which reconfigured it into four layouts, with two able to be operated at the same time, with a total length of 4.5 kilometres. The extended ‘full’ circuit layout included an 83-metre ‘Brabham Loop’, which has not been used since the circuit returned to the V8 Supercars calendar in 2014.
Rewind to 2014
Jamie Whincup took his 58th career pole position in the first race of last year’s Sydney Motorsport Park 400, breaking Peter Brock’s long-standing record of 57, while Scott McLaughlin took pole for Saturday’s second sprint race.
For the first time in nearly three years, both Saturday races were affected by rain, and it was little surprise to see the grid’s ‘rain master’, Shane van Gisbergen, triumph in his TEKNO Holden. The New Zealander handed out a lesson to the rest of the field across both Sprint Races, with Garth Tander and Craig Lowndes completing the podium in the first race, while Chaz Mostert and Whincup claimed second and third respectively in the second.
After going well in early practice and claiming pole in Race 2, Scott McLaughlin was considered a favourite for the two sprint events, but failed to finish either. His Volvo suffered an engine failure in Race 1, and after a Hurculean effort by the team to get a new V8 unit in the car in time for the second race – where he was starting from pole – the young Kiwi had his hopes further dashed when a wheel came off on the opening lap.
He bounced back in style on Sunday, dominating the longer Feature Race to win from pole position. Behind him there was plenty of action, with Mark Winterbottom costing himself valuable championship points thanks to a drive-through penalty for causing a collision with David Reynolds and Scott Pye. The podium was completed by Nick Percat (his first as a full-time driver) and Fabian Coulthard.
Facts & Stats
- This year’s event will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the circuit’s opening in 1990 and the twentieth time that the Sydney Motorsport Park has staged a sanctioned Australian touring car championship-level event.
- The most successful touring car driver at Sydney Motorsport Park is Mark Skaife, who earned 10 of his 90 career wins at this circuit.
- The venue is also significant in the history of the Holden Racing Team, which claimed its inaugural race win here in 1994 at the hands of the late Peter Brock. Since then, the factory Holden outfit has notched up a total of 16 race wins here, more than any other team.
The Form Guide
Mark Winterbottom’s hopes of a maiden V8 Supercars Championship crown seem to strengthen with each passing round of the season. The Prodrive Racing Australia driver notched up two more race wins last time out at Queensland Raceway, and with eight race wins already this season – the most he’s chalked up in one year – his charge looks almost unstoppable.
The Ford ace’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings has further blown out to 256 points ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Craig Lowndes, but the end of winter has historically marked a point where ‘Frosty’ starts to get a few wobbles in his season. He is, however, enjoying his best season by miles, and having seen the chequered flag at every race this year (and only twice outside the top ten), he’s been a model of consistency.
He’s taken the smart approach of playing the long game and setting his car up for race conditions, which would go a long way to explain why he’s only got one pole position to teammate Chaz Mostert’s eight, and yet he’s out-finished his young stablemate 10-8 where both have made the finish.
While the Pepsi-sponsored cars will remain the clear favourites this weekend, they will have to keep an eye in their rearview mirrors for competition from the Red Bull Racing Holdens. Both Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup seemed to have clawed back some of the one-lap pace deficit, but both still have some way to go in order to topple their rival Ford Falcons.
The weekend also gives the Pirtek Enduro Cup co-drivers one final practice hit-out before the upcoming long-distance events; strong practice pace might give some indication as to which driver pairings to look out for.
Images via Apex Circuit Design, Newcastle Live, Sydney Motorsport Park