Kicking off a new season of the V8 Supercars Championship always bring with it a host of questions that need to be answered, and there’s no doubt that this weekend’s season opener, the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide, will go a long way to answering these questions.
Let’s look at what we do know. While a host of teams have picked up new drivers (and in some cases, cars) from rival outfits, all of last year’s eight race-winners will remain with the same outfit heading into the current season.
The biggest news on the driver market was the poorly-kept secret that Lee Holdsworth was leaving the confines of Garry Rogers Motorsport to join Stone Brothers Racing after a six-year stint with the Holden team. A previous Clipsal podium finisher, Holdsworth has had several test outings to get familiar with the SBR Ford, and it will be interesting to see how he performs in this new environment.
Other high-profile driver swaps include David Reynolds (who joins Ford Performance Racing), Russell Ingall (Walkinshaw) and Fabian Coulthard (Brad Jones Racing), while Alexandre Premat (Garry Rogers Motorsport), David Wall (Brad Jones) and Taz Douglas (Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport) will be making their pukka championship debuts.
After the Vodafone-sponsored Triple 8 Racing team romped to a championship 1-2 last year, the Clipsal 500 will give a good indicator as to whether any other outfit is in a position to challenge the Holden team for 2012 honours.
The likes of rival outfits including Holden Racing Team, Ford Performance Racing, Kelly Racing, Brad Jones Racing and Stone Brothers Racing all showed flashes of incredible speed last year, but none had the round-to-round consistency to mount a serious challenge.
Triple 8’s Jamie Whincup will again head into this weekend’s two 250-kilometre races as a serious prospect. All three of his championship crowns have come off the back of him beating all comers in the opening round of the championship, and it will be an ominous warning shot if he kicks off the 2012 season in style.
|2012 CLIPSAL 500 ADELAIDE
|Date:||2-4 March 2012|
|Race Lap Record:||1:21.9502, James Courtney (Ford Falcon FG) – 2010|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 09:05-09:35|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 11:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 12:10-12:40|
|Free Practice Session 4||Fri 13:30-14:00|
|Race 1 Qualifying||Fri 14:50-15:10|
|Race 1 Top-10 Qualifying Shootout||Fri 16:05-16:35|
|Race 1 Warm-Up||Sat 09:05-09:25|
|Race 1 (78 laps, 250km)||Sat 14:35-16:42|
|Race 2 Qualifying||Sun 11:15-11:35|
|Race 2 (78 laps, 250km)||Sun 14:35-16:42|
|Past Winners:||Garth Tander (Holden Commodore VE)||2011 (Race 1)|
|Jamie Whincup (Holden Commodore VE)||2011 (Race 2)|
Albeit used in a shorter form, the Grand Prix venue is still considered to be one of the best street circuits in the world, and unusual given that it offers some challenging high-speed sections and plenty of overtaking opportunities.
A busy and technical circuit inside the cockpit, drivers are constantly on alert in their bid to deliver fast lap times and keep their cars out of the awfully-close barriers.
With wet weather predicted to rear its head for much of the weekend, conditions will become even trickier for drivers as the grip levels and visibility diminish. This could well be a carnage-filled weekend!
Facts, Stats & Predictions
Jamie Whincup will kick off his 2012 championship campaign aiming for a fourth V8 Supercars Championship crown, and best of all, he’s doing it on a circuit where he has enjoyed incredible success. He’s won the Clipsal 500 four times and claimed six individual race wins from sixteen starts here. He’s not qualified off the front row here since 2006.
His main rivals are expected to come from within his own camp or from rival Holden outfit, TOLL HRT (Walkinshaw Racing). The two teams have claimed victory at every single race here since 2006, with Triple 8 Engineering has claimed seven wins to Walkinshaw’s five.
Outside the two factory Holden teams, pundits are tipping the Ford Performance Racing outfit to be the dark horse this weekend, after lead drivers Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison have both shown excellent form in the off-season. The pair will be gunning to claim Ford’s 200th pole position in the championship.