2013 Sucrogen Townsville 400 2013 Sucrogen Townsville 400 2013 Sucrogen Townsville 400

The Championship returns to the sunny (fabulous) state of Queensland to the Townsville Street Circuit where Jamie Whincup is the man to beat! Having finished in the top two in seven out of the eight races of the Championship at this location, will Craig Lowndes or Will Davison, second and third in the rankings, be able to catch up?

Read on for our preview of what is definitely going to be a cracker weekend!

The Circuit

Townsville Street Circuit
Date: 5-7 July 2013
Venue: Reid Park, Townsville, Queensland
Lap Length: 2.860km
Race Lap Record: 1:13.4066, Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG) – 2012
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 0 (endurance co-drivers) Fri 10:30-11:00
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 11:40-12:10
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 12:55-13:25
Free Practice Session 3 Fri 14:35-15:05
Free Practice Session 4 Sat 09:10-09:40
Race 20 Qualifying Sat 11:45-12:05
Race 20 Qualifying (Top 10 Shootout) Sat 13:10-13:40
Race 20 (72 laps, 200km) Sat 15:35-17:15
Race 21 Qualifying Sun 12:45:13:05
Race 2 (72 laps, 200km) Sun 15:35-17:15
2011 Winners: Jamie Whincup (Holden Commodore VE) 2012 Race 1
Jamie Whincup (Holden Commodore VE) 2012 Race 2

Opened in July 2009, the Townsville Ried Park circuit is said to be a drivers’ favourite and is quite a good piece of track.

The 2.86km circuit has 13 corners and numerous right handers that require a solid rear package.  It isn’t a high speed circuit per se with a top speed of 255km/h, but turn one (at 250 km/h) is followed by a minimum speed turn two corner.

Mark Dutton, Jamie Whincup’s engineer, talks about the characteristics of some of the turns on the track:

“With four second gear corners and one first gear corner, being able to put the power down early is crucial, combined with the high speed Turn Five, shortly followed by five right hand corners in quick succession torturing that left-hand rear tyre, that rear needs to be sorted. Then there are the kerbs; the better the cars ride them the more the drivers take them, but be warned – get it wrong, something is going to break.”

This weekend’s two 200-kilometre races also offers the first opportunity for teams to assess their fuel economy in preparation for the endurance races at Bathurst, Gold Coast and Sandown.  It will be the first time since the opening weekend that teams can refuel during pit stops..

The Form Guide

Jamie Whincup is clearly the man of the Championship and the man to beat, but given Lowndes’ victory last round, the lead is not as solid as he probably hopes.  There are only 159 points between Lowndes and his leading teammate and he hasn’t given up yet!

“Everyone can be caught and beaten,” three-time Champion Lowndes said.

“It’s a matter of keeping focus on our own goals and still striving to win races.

Having swept to victory in both races here last year, can anyone topple Jamie Whincup?“There’s still a long way to go – whether it’s me or Will (Davison), who’s in third, as long as we keep Jamie in striking distance.

“With both the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 to come, there’s the ability to lose 300 points quite easily, so for me there’s still a long way to go.

“And it’s still up for grabs for anyone to take the Championship.”

Will Davison will also be another one to watch; the other Davison however will be coming from a difficult race in Darwin and will be looking to improve his performance.

Fujitsu GRM’s Alex Premat is aiming for a top 10 position, while Shane Van Gisbergen is hoping to improve his qualifying form. The fourth man in the rankings behind Whincup, Lowndes and Davison is hoping that studying footage of the circuit he can up his performance.

This will also be the first weekend that co-drivers get a chance in their cars, so that will give them the first chance to comment on the Car of the Future…

Facts, Stats & Predictions

Tyre allocation will be the same as the Darwin race with each car allocated 12 hard and 8 soft Dunlop tires.  This weekend will be slightly different however in that soft tires will not be allowed during qualifying but will be allowed during the top 10 shootout.

This means that the top 10 cars will have used the softs during the race while everyone else will be on fresh sets.  Sunday’s qualifying will also be on hards, but both compounds must be used during both races.  The track is not known for high tire degradation so it is likely the teams will start on hards and progress to softs once they have refuelled. There are still questions about the best strategy to use though, as illustrated by Mark Winterbottom,

“That’s the million dollar question. It’s the unknown,” the Pepsi Max Ford Falcon FG driver said.

“There are two theories really, the soft tyre you leave to the end because if a safety car comes out and you’re on hard tyres till the end you are going to get swamped.

“But the flipside is you can go out and start on the soft tyre and see how long it lasts. If it only lasts 30 laps then you rip it off and put the hard tyre on and go to the end. You have taken the lottery out of how long your tyres are going to last.”

The safety car is more likely than not to come out this weekend, with 75% of races affected by the Chrysler since 2009.  This may in fact have repercussions for the teams’ refueling strategies and how it plays out timing wise, so keep an eye out!

Russell Ingall be making his 226th ATCC/V8s appearance this weekend, breaking the John Bowe’s record of most starts in the history of the Championship! He will be in a 226 numbered car to commemorate the occasion.

The other interesting thing to note is that this is the last year on the contract between the State Government and V8 Supercars.  The paperwork signed in 2009 was for five years and at this stage ‘negotiations are ongoing’. Hopefully they’ll be sorted out sooner rather than later!

What do you think?  Will we see Whincup extend his lead, will Lowndes shorten it or will a likely safety car mix it all up?  Stay tuned for all the updates!

Images via Holden Racing Team and V8 Supercars Media

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Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Two-time Young Australian of the Year finalist, qualified mechanical engineer, social advocate, author and 'petrol head'

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