The V8 Supercars Championship is back in action this weekend, with the field’s 28 drivers heading to Victoria to compete in the Phillip Island 300, the first event at the circuit since 2007 which is now a two-race format.
After a dominant display by Ford at the last round at Barbagallo Raceway, could we be due a form reversal (of sorts, in 2012) at a venue that has historically been a Holden stomping ground?
Let’s take a look at our complete event preview…
|2012 V8 SUPERCARS PHILLIP ISLAND 300
|Date:||18-20 May 2012|
|Race Lap Record:||1:33.4389, Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore VT) – 1999|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 0 (Endurance Co-Drivers)||Fri 11:40-12:10|
|Free Practice Session 1 (lower 50% in points table)||Fri 13:10-13:40|
|Free Practice Session 2 (all Championship Drivers)||Fri 14:20-14:40|
|Free Practice Session 3 (all Championship Drivers)||Fri 14:55-15:15|
|Free Practice Session 4 (all Championship Drivers)||Sat 10:10-10:40|
|Race 1 Qualifying||Sat 13:25-13:45|
|Race 1 (32 laps, 142km)||Sat 16:05-17:15|
|Free Practice Session 5 (all Championship Drivers)||Sun 10:05-10:35|
|Race 2 Qualifying||Sun 13:00-13:20|
|Race 2 (45 laps, 200km)||Sun 15:40-17:15|
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 never-ending double left-hand sequence that makes up the final corners of the 4.445km lap.
Rewinding to 2011
Last year’s visit to Phillip Island served as the the first of the season’s two endurance events, with the lead drivers paired with their Bathurst 1000 co-drivers in a 500-kilometre single-race event.
With the grid make-up decided by two non-points sprint races (where the lead and co-drivers drove in one race apiece), it was the TeamVodafone pairing of Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife who successfully defended their Phillip Island 500 wins from 2010, leading home a team 1-2 ahead of Jamie Whincup and Andrew Thompson.
Their win was assured courtesy of a slow puncture suffered by Stone Brothers Racing pairing Shane van Gisbergen and John McIntyre, as well as a delayed pit stop from Thompson/Whincup.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
This year’s event will serve as a departure to the race format that has been run at this high-speed circuit in recent years, with the drivers participating in one 140-kilometre race on Saturday, and a longer 200-kilometre race on Sunday.
The weekend will also be the first that the ‘Endurance’ co-drivers will get some mileage behind the wheel in an open practice session – which series officials have absurdly titled ‘Practice 0’ – and this will give an all-important indication of the relative speeds of the championship’s occasional top-line racers.
You could adopt two distinct schools of thought when trying to predict the form guide ahead of this weekend’s event: either looking at the 2012 season to-date, or by looking at the drivers’ historical performances at Phillip Island.
Taking the latter approach, Phillip Island is a track that has largely rewarded the Holden drivers, who have won nine of the last dozen races held here, including all four of the 500-kilometre endurance events held between 2008-11.
Championship leader Jamie Whincup has the best record here of late. Only once in his last nine races here has he not finished on the podium, and he’s never qualified outside the top-four.
Team-mate Craig Lowndes could notch up his own record at Phillip Island if he wins one of the races here. With eight wins on the Island to his credit already, one more win will draw him level with all-time race-winner Mark Skaife, while two will put him on top of the list of all-time winners at this venue.
Former champion Garth Tander is another driver who enjoys an impressive record here. He’s finished inside the top-four in fourteen of his last sixteen races here, including nine podium finishes. It was also here that he claimed his 2007 championship title.
Will Davison, winner of five races alone this year, lies just 29 points behind series leader Whincup, and he’ll be desperate to reclaim the championship lead with another solid display in his Falcon.
The weekend will mark a series of milestones for several drivers on the grid, not least of will be Davison’s team-mate Mark Winterbottom’s 31st birthday on Sunday. The Ford Performance Racing driver has claimed two wins in the 2012 season, and will be eagerly hoping for the ultimate birthday present with a visit to the top step of the podium.
This event will also be Russell Ingall 209th championship event in his long ATCC/V8SC career, drawing him level with former champion Glenn Seton on the all-time list of event appearances in the championship’s history. Only John Bowe (225), Mark Skaife (220) and the late Peter Brock (212) have started more events than ‘The Enforcer’, who enjoyed a more promising run of form last time out at Barbagallo Raceway, where he claimed two top-fifteen finishes.
Fellow Holden runners Jamie Whincup and James Courtney will also pass milestones this weekend, with Sunday’s race marking Whincup’s 250th championship start and Courtney’s 200th, respectively.
In all, it looks set to be an action-packed weekend – make sure you keep visiting RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from Phillip Island!