The L&H 500 Phillip Island sees the start of the traditional sequence of endurance races on the V8 Supercars calendar, with this weekend’s 500-kilometre race preceding the illustrious Bathurst 1000 in October.
With the fight for the championship building to its climax, the championship’s 28 regular drivers are paired with a co-driver over 113 tortuous laps, which is guaranteed to produce plenty of edge-of-the-seat action for race fans.
Richard’s F1 previews this weekend’s action and takes a look at some of the talking points leading into this weekend…
|2011 L&H 500 PHILLIP ISLAND
|Date:||16-18 September 2011||Lap Length:||4.445km|
|Race Lap Record:||1:33.4389, Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore VT) – 1999|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 11:30-12:10|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 12:50-13:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 14:10-14:50|
|Free Practice Session 4||Sat 09:10-09:50|
|Free Practice Session 5||Sat 10:05-10:45|
|Qualifying Race 1: Qualifying||Sat 11:25-11:45|
|Qualifying Race 2: Qualifying||Sat 12:05-12:25|
|Qualifying Race 1 (14 laps, 60km)||Sat 14:35-14:55|
|Qualifying Race 2 (14 laps, 60km)||Sat 16:35-16:55|
|Race Warm Up||Sun 10:30-10:50|
|Feature Race (113 laps, 500km)||Sun 13:35-17:00|
Located some 130km south-east of Melbourne the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit was originally designed in 1956, but it underwent extensive rework ahead of the track’s rebirth as an international motorsport venue in the late 1980s.
Perhaps better known as a motorcycle racing venue – it hosts international rounds during the World Superbike and MotoGP championship seasons – the circuit’s flowing, undulating nature presents a stern test for any vehicle, be it two- or four-wheeled.
The lap opens on the downhill Gardner straight which feeds into a punishing right-hander called Doohan Corner, ahead of the track’s ‘Southern Loop’, a tight left-hander. Drivers then steadily build speed through the long left-hand sweep that is Turn 3, before braking heavily at the lap’s first proper overtaking spot, Honda Corner, a near-hairpin taken in second gear.
The middle part of the lap is rather ‘follow my leader’ stuff through the sweeps of Siberia and Lukey Heights, before the track plunges into the tight Turn 10, another tempting corner for drivers to try – and rather often not succeed – another passing attempt. The speed then builds through a seemingly neverending double left-hand sequence that makes up the final corners of the 4.445km lap.
A look back at 2010
In what is traditionally a warm-up event for October’s Bathurst 1000Km classic, last year’s event marked the first time in the history of the series’ endurance races that the teams’ primary drivers were barred from pairing up with one another. This meant that each of the field’s 28 full-time pilots was partnered with a co-driver for the 500km race.
Team Vodafone’s decision to reunite former V8 Supercars’ champion Mark Skaife with its frontrunner Craig Lowndes paid dividends, with the pair taking victory after the sister car of Jamie Whincup and Steve Owen struck trouble.
Ford Performance Racing’s duo Mark Winterbottom and Luke Youlden finished second, while Brad Jones Racing claimed its first ever V8 Supercars podium when Jason Richards and Andrew Jones finished third after a hard-charging race from the rear of the field.
The L&H 500 presents the driver pairings with the one and only opportunity to get their team racecraft down pat before the mega event in Bathurst next month.
The vast majority of this weekend’s co-drivers are certainly no slouches behind the wheel, with many being former full-time V8 Supercars drivers, or up-and-coming chargers in the lower-tier Fujitsu V8 development series.
Continuity from season to season is an important issue to be considered when teams choose their endurance race driver line-ups, and eight driver pairings are the same as at last year’s L&H 500.
The standout driver pairing is that of the defending race winners, with the red-hot Craig Lowndes once again teaming up with the championship’s most successful driver Mark Skaife, who will step out of the commentary box and into the cockpit this weekend.
Team owner/driver Paul Morris – who spends his time driving in the Fujitsu Series – will notch up his 150th ATC/V8s championship start this weekend, making him just the seventeenth driver in the sport’s history to do so. Morris’ career in the top-flight dates back to as long ago as 1992.
The driver pairings also include a smattering of international stars. Former F1 driver (now a star in Le Mans racing) David Brabham will join Alex Davison in the IRWIN Racing entry, while fellow internationals Allan Simonsen, Matt Halliday, and Richard Lyons will make their return to the championship.
Sadly for Team BOC’s Jason Richards, he will only be a spectator this weekend, after confirming that his ongoing battles with a rare form of adrenal cancer have ruled him out of pairing up with Jason Bright. His place will instead be taken by Andrew Jones.
The final entry list reads as follows:
|1.||TOLL HRT / Walkinsaw Performance||James Courtney||Cameron McConville|
|2.||TOLL HRT / Walkinsaw Performance||Garth Tander||Nick Percat|
|3.||Wilson Security Racing / D’Alberto||Tony D’Alberto||Dale Wood|
|4.||IRWIN Racing / Stone Brothers||Alex Davison||David Brabham|
|9.||SP Tools Racing / Stone Brothers||Shane van Gisbergen||John McIntyre|
|47.||Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers||Tim Slade||Daniel Gaunt|
|5.||Orrcon Steel / FPR||Mark Winterbottom||Steven Richards|
|6.||Trading Post Racing / FPR||Will Davison||Luke Youlden|
|55.||Bottle-O Racing Team / Nash-FPR||Paul Dumbrell||Dean Canto|
|7.||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Kelly Racing||Todd Kelly||David Russell|
|11.||Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing||Greg Murphy||Allan Simonsen|
|15.||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Kelly Racing||Rick Kelly||Owen Kelly|
|16.||Stratco Racing / Kelly Racing||David Reynolds||Tim Blanchard|
|8.||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||Jason Bright||Andrew Jones|
|14.||Jana Living / Brad Jones Racing||Jason Bargwanna||Shane Price|
|21.||Fair Dinkum Sheds / Britek||Karl Reindler||David Wall|
|12.||Westrac Racing / Triple F Racing||Dean Fiore||Michael Patrizi|
|17.||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson||Steven Johnson||David Besnard|
|18.||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson||James Moffat||Matt Halliday|
|19.||Mother Energy Racing / Tekno||Jonathon Webb||Richard Lyons|
|30.||Gulf Western Oil / Lucas Dumbrell||Warren Luff||Nathan Pretty|
|33.||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers||Lee Holdsworth||Greg Ritter|
|34.||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers||Michael Caruso||Marcus Marshall|
|39.||SuperCheap Auto / Paul Morris||Russell Ingall||Jack Perkins|
|49.||VIP Petfoods / Paul Morris||Steve Owen||Paul Morris|
|61.||Bundaberg / Walkinsaw Performance||Fabian Coulthard||Craig Baird|
|88.||Triple 8 Race Engineering||Jamie Whincup||Andrew Thompson|
|888.||Triple 8 Race Engineering||Craig Lowndes||Mark Skaife|
[Images via Flickr]