This weekend sees the V8 Supercars field head cross-country to Western Australia for the championship’s fourth round of the season, the Trading Post Perth Challenge at a substantially redeveloped Barbagallo Raceway.
And with the previous round at Hamilton headlined by a clean sweep of wins for the Ford Performance Racing team, will any rival outfit be able to catch them out west, or will another outfit step up to the plate?
Let’s take a look at our preview of this weekend’s event…
|2012 TRADING POST PERTH CHALLENGE
|Date:||4-6 May 2012|
|Race Lap Record:||55.9440s, Jason Bright (Holden Commodore VY) – 2004|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1 (lower 50% in points table)||Fri 11:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2 (all drivers)||Fri 12:20-12:50|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 14:35-15:05|
|Free Practice Session 4||Sat 15:55-16:25|
|Race 1 Qualifying||Sat 12:05-12:25|
|Race 1 (50 laps, 120km)||Sat 14:05-15:15|
|Race 2 Qualifying||Sun 09:25-09:40|
|Race 3 Qualifying||Sun 09:50-10:05|
|Race 2 (50 laps, 120km)||Sun 11:15-12:15|
|Race 3 (50 laps, 120km)||Sun 14:05-15:15|
|2011 Winners:||Jamie Whincup (Holden Commodore VE)||2011 (Race 1)|
|Jason Bright (Holden Commodore VE)||2011 (Race 2)|
|Jamie Whincup (Holden Commodore VE)||2011 (Race 3)|
Originally opened in 1969 as Wanneroo Park, the circuit – located 50km north of Perth – held a non-championship Australian Grand Prix in 1979, and in 1992 it was renamed Barbagallo raceway in honour of the prominent motorsport identity, Alf Barbagallo, who helped fund major work to improve the circuit.
The seven-turn circuit produces a high-speed and short lap-time of less than a minute for this championship, and it calls on drivers and engineers to ensure they have a well set-up car. The opening section is narrow and twisty, feeding on to the hill on the far side of the track. The off-camber Turn 6 feeds the drivers back in the other direction on the track’s longest straight towards the final corner, a 90-degree right-hander at the bottom of a steep hill (pictured left), a major test for the cars.
This year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever before with the first phase of redevelopments to the raceway now ready in time for the event. The updates feature a pedestrian bridge access to the new pit and paddock area, now located on the circuit’s infield.
Rewinding to 2011
Last year’s Trading Post Perth Challenge saw plenty of thrills and spills, along with a surprise result.
Initially, the weekend looked to deliver the same TeamVodafone dominance that would be the hallmark of the 2011 season, particularly with eventual champion Jamie Whincup leading team-mate Craig Lowndes for a team 1-2 in the Saturday’s first race.
Race 2 produced the biggest drama, most notably with a red flag brought out by a massive start-line crash. Having secured his best-ever qualifying position, local driver Karl Reindler stalled at the race got underway and was cannoned into by an unsighted Steve Owen. Reindler’s car exploded as the collision split his fuel tank on impact, and the West Australian was lucky to escape from his destroyed car with little more than superficial burns to his hands.
When the race did get underway, it was Jason Bright who led Team BOC team-mate Jason Bargwanna to a long-awaited maiden win for Brad Jones Racing; the pair sandwiching Whincup on the podium.
With the BJR crew having their set-up sorted, the final race would be a battle between Whincup and Bright. The pair duelled all race long, with Whincup prevailing by just over a second from Bright. Local driver Garth Tander lifted home fans’ spirits with his third-placed finish in his TOLL Holden.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
Having had a disastrous 2011 campaign, Ford Performance Racing’s form reversal has been nothing short of sensational. The team has won four of the six championship races to-date in 2012, and the works team – lead by Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom – looks like the team to beat, fresh from their clean sweep at Hamilton a fortnight ago.
But momentum is everything in this championship, and one rough weekend that throw the race to the title wide open.
While Davison and defending champion Jamie Whincup sit almost 200 points clear of the chasing pack, the points table is closely packed for the rest of the top-ten. Mark Winterbottom leads the charge after his first win of 2012 at Hamilton, and he sits 168 points behind Whincup.
The gap between fourth (Craig Lowndes) and tenth (Rick Kelly) in the championship ladder is just 104 points, and with 100 points on offer for a race win this weekend, expect plenty of movement in the championship table as the field leaves Perth on Sunday.
This weekend will also be very tactical, particularly on Sunday, which will see separate qualifying sessions and two 50-lap races a little less than two hours apart. Drivers and teams will not want to incur any major damage with such little time between races to perform repairwork.
As for the form guide, the history books suggest that Whincup and Lowndes should continue to rewrite the Barbagallo record books, if previous years here are anything to go by.
Whincup will be gunning for a fifth consecutive pole position at the circuit, enjoying a qualifying record here that is almost insurmountable. In the last seven races here, he’s never finished outside the top-four and has stood atop the podium on three separate occasions.
Lowndes has a further ten Barbagallo wins to his credit and remains the most successful driver in touring car history here. He has finished in the top-eight in each of the last dozen races held here, and only once in seventeen qualifying sessions has he not qualified on the first five rows of the grid. The always-smiling TeamVodafone driver will also rack up his 450th championship start on Sunday’s final race.
If this year is looked at in isolation when trying to predict this weekend’s happenings, then Will Davison is the man to beat. He’s yet to finish off the podium this year, and his three wins have given him a narrow 21-point lead over the chasing Whincup, who has two wins this year.
In all, it looks set to be an action-packed weekend in Western Australia – make sure you keep visiting RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from Perth!