2012 Telstra Sydney 500 Preview 2012 Telstra Sydney 500 Preview 2012 Telstra Sydney 500 Preview

This weekend will make the end of an era for the V8 Supercars Championship, with Sydney Olympic Park playing host to the last ever Holden-versus-Ford battle as the series brings down the curtain on its two-make format over two tortuous 250-kilometre races.

While fans of both makes will be out in force, there’s still a championship battle to contend with, as Jamie Whincup will – barring sheer disaster – claim another championship title this weekend.

Take a look at our event preview for the Sydney Telstra 500…


The Circuit

  Homebush Street Circuit
Date: 16-18 November 2012
Venue: Sydney Olympic Park Street Circuit, Homebush Bay, New South Wales
Lap Length: 3.450km / 2.143mi
Race Lap Record: 1:28.3839, Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore VE) – 2011
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Fri 10:10-10:40
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 11:20-11:50
Free Practice Session 3 Fri 13:55-14:25
  Free Practice Session 4 Fri 15:30-16:00
  Race 1 Qualifying Session Sat 09:25-09:45
  Race 1 Qualifying Session (Top-10 Shootout) Sat 12:00-12:30
Race 1 (74 laps, 250km) Sat 15:05-17:15
  Race 2 Qualifying Session Sun 10:05-10:25
  Race 2 (74 laps, 250km) Sun 15:05-17:15
Past Winners: Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG) 2011 (Race 2)
  Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore VE) 2011 (Race 1)
  Lee Holdsworth (Holden Commodore VE) 2010 (Race 2)
  Jonathon Webb (Ford Falcon FG) 2010 (Race 1)
  James Courtney (Ford Falcon FG) 2009 (Race 2)
  Garth Tander (Holden Commodore VE) 2009 (Race 1)

Carving its way around the streets that surround the complex that played host to the 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney’s Homebush street circuit is a challenging mix of corners  and changing track surfaces.

Co-designed by former V8 Supercars champion Mark Skaife, the circuit is a huge challenge for drivers. Its bumps and camber changes are a nightmare to perfect set-ups, and its mixture or different corner types make it difficult to eke out a perfect lap around the circuit.

The track’s front straight will see drivers hit top speeds of 250km/h, while the close concrete walls and high-kerbed chicanes limit lap times to an average speed of just under 140km/h. It’s typically a car breaker (or a car-bender, if you collect the wall), and its past races have seen the highest rate of attrition in comparison to any other venue on the calendar.

Rewinding to 2011

Last year’s season finale saw an epic scrap for the 2011 championship honours between TeamVodafone team-mates Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes.

Lowndes tigered through from tenth on the grid to win Race 1Whincup claimed pole position after Lowndes had a spin in the Top-10 Qualifying Session and posted the slowest time.

But it was Lowndes who came through to secure a brilliant win in a race where Whincup hit the fence to bring himself back into the championship hunt ahead of Sunday’s last race.

Sunday’s race had more drama with crashes and spins aplenty in another thrilling race. In the end, it was Whincup who took the title honours, doing enough to finish eighth in the race. Lowndes couldn’t quite seal the deal with a second-placed finish behind Ford’s Mark Winterbottom.

Facts, Stats & Predictions

Back-to-back wins helped Whincup to a seemingly insurmountable 317-point lead after the penultimate round at Winton Raceway a fortnight ago, but the championship’s points structure means that the Holden driver could still be overhauled by his sole title rival, Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom.

There are a maximum of 300 points up for grabs, the title race won’t be over until Sunday evening when the chequered flag is unfurled for the last time in 2012. How is this possible? Well, Winterbottom would need to win both races, while Whincup would have to fail to finish both and cop a 25-point penalty for a driving infringement. Not a tall ask at all!

Interestingly, this is a ‘bogey’ circuit for Whincup, and it remains the solve venue on the entire championship calendar where he’s yet to win, let alone finish on the podium.

In the event’s short three-year history, we’ve seen six different race-winners from five different teams claim top honours in what are typically bruising encounters for the field’s 28 cars. It a much more wide-open event than championship form would typically dictate, and with plenty of drivers setting out to prove a point to potential 2013 employers, it’s an event which has seen some unexpected results.

Webb won the crazy rain-hit race in 2010A case in point is the famous rain-hit race in 2010. A sudden downpour lashed the circuit mid-race, taking out James Courtney, Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom – the three championship contenders! – along with the half of the running field. Through the madness came Jonathon Webb, who claimed his maiden championship victory after starting from 21st on the grid!

Interestingly, we’re expected to see severe weather extremes this weekend, with the mercury set to hit well above 40˚C (104˚F) on Saturday, while wet weather is forecast for Sunday. If ever this is an opportunity to see a team or driver outside of TeamVodafone or FPR grace the top step of the podium, then this is it…

Several major teams will be bidding farewell to some significant partners this weekend, and this will be a weekend of sadness for many fans as well.

The biggest surprise came in the form of Shane van Gisbergen’s shock announcement that he is quitting the sport at the end of this weekend and returning to his native New Zealand. The news will no doubt have caught Stone Brothers Racing on the hop, but it will be spoilt for choice with candidates eager to get behind the wheel of its brand-new AMG as it also farewells the Ford Falcon this weekend.

The four-car Kelly Racing stable will be sayings its farewells to Holden as it too switches manufacturers, fronting Nissan’s return to the sport next year. Two of its four drivers, Greg Murphy and Karl Reindler, will also have their last outings with the team this weekend.

Another driver bidding farewell to their current employers will be Michael Caruso (GRM Holden), who is widely expected to be confirmed over the course of this weekend as Murphy’s replacement.

The event will also see the departure of several major sponsors, with high-profile brands such as Vodafone (Triple 8 Racing), TradingPost (FPR) and Jim Beam (Dick Johnson Racing) marking this weekend as their last with their respective teams and entries.

Make sure you visit the RichardsF1.com website throughout the weekend for all the latest news, highlights and gossip from Winton!

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.