After three action-packed ‘endurance’ rounds at Phillip Island, Bathurst and Surfers Paradise, the V8 Supercars Championship reverts to its traditional racing format, making its only visit across the Bass Strait to contest the Falken Tasmania Challenge at Symmons Plains Raceway.
Having temporarily lost his season-long championship lead at Bathurst, Team Vodafone’s Jamie Whincup quickly redressed the balance with a solid weekend on the Gold Coast, while team-mate and main championship rival Craig Lowndes fell in a heap with two mechanically-affected races. Who will come out on top in Tasmania?
Richard’s F1 previews this weekend’s action and takes a look at some of the talking points leading into the event…
|2011 FALKEN TASMANIA CHALLENGE
|Date:||11-13 November 2011||Lap Length:||2.410km|
|Race Lap Record:||51.4713s, Rick Kelly (Holden Commodore VE) – 2009|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:30-11:00|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 11:50-12:20|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 13:00-13:30|
|Free Practice Session 4||Fri 14:10-14:40|
|Race 1 Qualifying||Sat 11:20-11:40|
|Race 1 (50 laps, 120km)||Sat 16:05-17:15|
|Race 2 Qualifying||Sun 12:30-12:50|
|Race 2 (84 laps, 202km)||Sun 15:35-17:15|
|Past Winners:||Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore VE)||2010 (Race 1)|
|Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG)||2010 (Race 2)|
Located about 30 kilometres south of Tasmania’s second-largest city, Launceston, Symmons Plains Raceway has been the premier motor-racing facility on the ‘Apple Isle’.
Aside from Sandown Raceway, Symmons Plains is the second longest-serving circuit in the combined history of the Australian Touring Car and the V8 Supercars Championships, and this year’s event will be the 39th time that the touring cars have come to the venue.
The track played host to rounds of the championship every year between 1969-99 before dropping off the calendar and returning in 2004. Ahead of its return, the circuit received a $3 million upgrade that saw some modifications to the track’s layout – primarily being a relocation of the start/finish line to being opposite the pits.
This narrow rifle-shaped circuit is a popular venue for drivers and teams, and despite its short layout and tight confines, the track presents two very good overtaking opportunities each lap. Its extremely tight and (unusually) banked hairpin bend, known as Brambles Hairpin, is one such spot, although it relies on the driver ahead cooperating with the move. The second main passing spot is into the penultimate corner after the cars blast along the circuit’s long sprint between Brambles Hairpin and Turn 6.
The heavy stopping points place a premium on brake wear.
The Players and Form Guide
This year’s championship contenders, Team Vodafone drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, are on track to claim a 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship standings, although the main focus will be on who gets the upper hand with only six races left in the championship season.
A disastrous weekend on the Gold Coast for Lowndes saw his lead in the standings (which he assumed at the preceding round in Bathurst) being very short-lived, and now Whincup enjoys a 143-point lead in the title race.
The pair could become the first team-mates since Marco Ambrose and Russell Ingall finished 1-2 in the 2004 season, driving for Stone Brothers Racing. This has only happened in seven previous seasons of the championship’s history.
Holden could also claim its 400th race win this weekend, if it wins both races at Symmons Plains. It now sits miles ahead of Ford’s 291 wins, and it looks odds-on to rack up the 400th given that ‘The General’ has won nineteen of the twenty-two races to-date in 2011.
Whincup and HRT driver Garth Tander enjoy, by far and away, the best record at Symmons Plains, with the pair having claimed 12 of the last 16 race wins at this venue. Whincup has five wins, while Tander has seven – the pair has also claimed pole position on five of the previous six occasions here.
But the pair should not discount Lowndes, who has won here six times already, and he’ll be eager to claim maximum points this weekend to keep his championship hopes alive.
This weekend’s entry list reads as follows:
|Team / Entry||Driver|
|1.||TOLL Holden Racing Team / Walkinshaw Performance||James Courtney|
|2.||TOLL Holden Racing Team / Walkinshaw Performance||Garth Tander|
|3.||Wilson Security Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing||Tony D’Alberto|
|4.||Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||Alex Davison|
|5.||Orrcon Racing / Ford Performance Racing||Mark Winterbottom|
|6.||Trading Post Racing / Ford Performance Racing||Will Davison|
|7.||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Kelly Racing||Todd Kelly|
|8.||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||Jason Bright|
|9.||SP Tools Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||Shane van Gisbergen|
|11.||Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing||Greg Murphy|
|12.||Westrac Racing / Triple F Racing||Dean Fiore|
|14.||Jana Living Racing / Brad Jones Racing||Jason Bargwanna|
|15.||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Kelly Racing||Rick Kelly|
|16.||Stratco Racing / Kelly Racing||David Reynolds|
|17.||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||Steven Johnson|
|18.||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||James Moffat|
|19.||Mother Energy Racing Team / Tekno Autosports||Jonathon Webb|
|21.||Fair Dunkum Sheds Racing / Britek & Brad Jones Racing||Karl Reindler|
|30.||Gulf Western Oil Racing / Lucas Dumbrell||Warren Luff|
|33.||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||Lee Holdsworth|
|34.||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||Michael Caruso|
|39.||SuperCheap Auto Racing / Paul Morris Motorsport||Russell Ingall|
|47.||Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||Tim Slade|
|49.||VIP Petfoods Racing / Paul Morris Motorsport||Steve Owen|
|55.||Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash & FPR||Paul Dumbrell|
|61.||Bundaberg Racing / Walkinshaw Performance||Fabian Coulthard|
|88.||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Race Engineering||Jamie Whincup|
|888.||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Race Engineering||Craig Lowndes|