This weekend’s Clipsal Adelaide 500 marks the beginning of the 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
The spiritual start of the season, Adelaide’s Parklands Circuit provides a spectacular arena for the year of racing to get underway. Tight corners, high kerbs and even higher temperatures give the field a real punishment to welcome them to the championship year.
|2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship – Clipsal Adelaide 500|
|Date||03-05 March 2017||Lap Length||3.219km|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 09:40-10:20||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 11:30-12:10|
|Race 1 Qualifying||Fri 15:50-16:10||Free Practice 3||Sat 10:05-10:25|
|Race 1 Top-10 Shootout||Sat 12:00-12:30||Race 1 (78 laps)||Sat 15:20-17:20|
|Race 2 Qualifying||Sun 09:20-09:40||Race 2 Top-10 Shootout||Sun 12:10-12:40|
|Race 2 (78 laps)||Sun 15:20-17:20|
Session times quoted in Australian Central Daylight Time (GMT +10:30)
Sadly missed by the Formula 1 circus since the Australian Grand Prix moved to Melbourne at the end of 1995, all eleven Grands Prix staged in the ‘City of Churches’ produced incredible drama.
South Australia’s state capital had generally been perceived as something of a backwater city until local business Bill O’Gorman came up with the bright idea that hosting a Formula 1 race would do wonders to improve the image of the city. He secured support from the state government and flew to London to sign a deal with Bernie Ecclestone, securing a seven-year contract, starting in 1985.
And with the necessary state laws changed to allow a race, it was decided that the circuit should incorporate the city’s parks and buck the (usual) trend of being a low-speed follow-my-leader street circuit. The end result was an end-of-season race of a daunting high-speed track that proved to be one of the most popular events on the sport’s calendar.
The first event in 1985 saw the street fighter Keke Rosberg take his last F1 victory, which would be feats repeated by Ayrton Senna (1993) and Nigel Mansell (1994). The event has also seen some thrilling title deciders, with the 1986 race seeing a down-to-the-wire title chase between Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost go to the Frenchman when Mansell’s tyre exploded. The 1994 race saw Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill controversially collide, handing the crown to the German.
While no longer part of the Formula 1 calendar, a shortened version of the circuit lives on as one of the country’s showpiece events on the Australian touring car calendar and it remains one of the best street circuits ever.
After two years of running with a format of two 125-kilometre races on Saturday and one 250-kilometre race on Sunday, this year sees the Adelaide 500 return to the traditional schedule of two 250-kilometre races over the two days of racing.
Compared to the other rounds throughout the year, Adelaide sees its champion crowned on Sunday irrespective of Saturday’s results. While the traditional round-winner crown is awarded to whoever acquires the most points over a racing weekend, the Adelaide 500 has always awarded its round-winner title to Sunday’s race victor.
Rewind to 2016
Last year it was Jamie Whincup who was able to take away maximum points in the first race of the year; something he is used to after winning eight season openers over the past nine years. The six-time Supercars Champion is also a three-time winner of the Adelaide 500 weekend, with his last coming in 2011.
HRT’s James Courtney won Saturday’s second race, chased down to the wire in a tense battle with Whincup in the race’s closing stages.
Sunday’s race was a shock and won’t leave many minds after an unexpected downpour shortened the race, giving local boy Nick Percat his first solo Supercars win in treacherous conditions.
The Form Guide
As it is the first race of the season, Adelaide marks the first race at the top of the sport for several debutantes.
Sixteen-year-old Alex Rullo grabbed headlines in 2015 when he became the youngest person ever to win a race in a V8 Supercar in the third-tier Kuhmo V8 Series at the ripe old age of 14. He joins Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport this year, receiving a special dispensation from CAMS to compete despite not meeting their superlicence criteria.
Simona de Silvestro is the other newbie to the sport, though to call her a rookie would be unflattering to say the least. Two Bathurst 1000 starts, an IndyCar podium and Formula E experience means the Swiss driver is certainly not short of racing experience. Joining Nissan Motorsport, she becomes the first female to race in the series full-time in 19 years.
There are a several drivers and more than a few stories to look out for when the cars hit the track on Friday.
While Jamie Whincup is one to keep an eye on given his lack of a #1 on the door, it is his teammate, the reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen, who could again show up the six-time champion. ‘The Giz’ has won on the streets in the past and has to make amends to himself after a mistake cost him a podium in the Bathurst 12 Hour in February.
Don’t write off the new combination of Scott McLaughlin and DJR Team Penske after they showed good pace in the recent test at Sydney, as well as gaining Craig Lowndes’ old engineer Ludo Lacroix.
Image via Edge Photographics