The championship action in this year’s V8 Supercars title race gets underway once again with the season’s third round, the ITM 400 held this weekend in the New Zealand city of Hamilton.
The 3.4-kilometre street circuit will play host to two 200km races this weekend. Despite its concrete-lined nature, the circuit is fast and flowing with several overtaking opportunities. A car needs to be well set up to provide good traction from the slower corners, but also compliant enough to deal with the track surface’s bumps and high chicane kerbs, which can unsettle the cars.
So who’s going to be a factor this weekend? Let’s have a look at the form guide…
Despite it’s New Zealand base and a healthy does of Kiwi drivers in the field, no New Zealand driver has actually won on the fast street circuit since its debut in 2008.
The best result for a Kiwi-born driver remains as a pair of second-placed finishes for Steven Richards in the inaugural round in 2008 (although to be fair, he does identify himself as Australian, having been born in New Zealand).
Just two men – TOLL HRT’s Garth Tander and Team Vodafone’s Jamie Whincup – have their names etched into the Mark Porter Trophy, the race-winner’s trophy named in honour of the New Zealand racer who was killed at the 2006 Bathurst round.
Tander won all three races held in 2008, while Whincup took out the double-header in 2009 and 2010. Undeniably the pair are the form drivers at this circuit, with Tander also having two second-placed finishes to go with his three wins.
Some fender-bending damage at the Australian Grand Prix – where the V8 Supercars participated in three non-championship rounds – will see several teams running spare chassis’ at Hamilton, with Jack Daniel’s Racing and Jim Beam Racing both particularly affected after heavy crashes involving at least one of their main cars.
Ricky Kelly’s near-new VE Commodore is undergoing major repairs, and the former race-winner will be piloting an older chassis he last raced in 2008, which he actually took to victory at Symmons Plains.
Similarly, DJR’s Steven Johnson has been forced to switch Falcon chassis’, and he will pilot the same car he drove in the 2008 and 2009 championship seasons. This particular chassis may bring him some luck, however, as he took it to pole position for Sunday’s race in 2009.
Readers will note that we’re referring to some rather old chassis’ at play this weekend, and this is simply because the championships series only updates its models once every three to four years.
The last round at Adelaide saw Holden’s VE Commodore become the most successful car model in the championship’s history, with Jamie Whincup’s win in Race 2 marking the 64th race win for the model since it debuted in 2007, surpassing the record of 63 wins set by Holden’s VT model between 1998 and 2001.
In other information for our stats-hungry readers out there, Russell Ingall will move into sixth place on the all-time Australian Touring Car Championship / V8 Supercars Championship starts list. This weekend’s round will be Ingall’s 193rd, moving him ahead of Tony Longhurst – and provided he doesn’t miss a round this year, Ingall will overtake Dick Johnson for fifth at the Sandown round in November.
And for this weekend’s round, expect the usual suspects – TOLL HRT, Team Vodafone and Ford Performance Racing – to feature at the sharp end of the field in this weekend’s activities, with the races no doubt promising plenty of fender-bending action. Expect quite a few safety car interruptions this weekend as cars get into strife with the walls (or each other), and a good result here will very much be dictated by the ability to keep out of trouble and play a flexible strategic hand.
As usual, Richard’s F1 will be bringing you all of the action from Australia’s major touring car championship series over the weekend.
[Image via Zimbio]