As the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship season begins to reach its climax, the championship takes a completely different turn over the next three rounds which mark the inaugural PIRTEK Endurance Cup.
Sunday’s 500-kilometre marathon will mark a significant change from the preceding rounds where – with the exception of the Clipsal 500 and the Townsville 400 – the longest race has been little more than 100 kilometres.
Adding to the complexity, the field’s regular drivers must now share their chariot with a co-driver, whose very skills could make or break a championship campaign.
So let’s take a look at this weekend’s kick-off event: the 161-lap Sandown 500…
|2013 V8 SUPERCARS WILSON SECURITY SANDOWN 500
|Date:||13-16 September 2013|
|Venue:||Sandown Raceway, Melbourne, Victoria|
|Lap Length:||3.104km / 1.928mi|
|Race Lap Record:||1:09.850, Garth Tander (Holden Commodore VE) – 2009|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 11:30-12:10|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 12:55-13:35|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 14:40-15:20|
|Free Practice Session 4||Sat 10:20-11:00|
|Preliminary Qualifying Session||Sat 12:25-12:45|
|Co-Driver Qualifying Race (20 laps, 62km)||Sat 14:45-15:15|
|Primary Driver Qualifying Race (20 laps, 62km)||Sat 16:30-17:00|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 11:05-11:25|
|Feature Race (161 laps, 500km)||Sun 13:35-17:15|
|Past Winners:||Craig Lowndes / Warren Luff (Holden Commodore VE II)||2012|
|Craig Lowndes / Mark Skaife (Holden Commodore VE II)||2011*|
|Craig Lowndes / Mark Skaife (Holden Commodore VE II)||2010*|
|Garth Tander / Will Davison (Holden Commodore VE)||2009*|
|Garth Tander / Mark Skaife (Holden Commodore VE)||2008*|
|Craig Lowndes / Jamie Whincup (Ford Falcon BF)||2007|
|Jason Bright / Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon BA)||2006|
|Craig Lowndes / Yvan Muller (Ford Falcon BA)||2005|
|Marcos Ambrose / Greg Ritter (Ford Falcon BA)||2004|
|Mark Skaife / Todd Kelly (Holden Commodore VY)||2003|
* Denotes Phillip Island 500
After a four-year stint at Phillip Island, Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway gets its second shot at playing host to the traditional 500-kilometre race that acts as the curtain-raiser to next month’s iconic Bathurst 1000.
Along with the racing circuit – which staged the very first Sandown 500 back in 1962 – the facility also houses Sandown Racecourse, Melbourne’s second-largest horse-racing facility.
Located about 25km south-east of Melbourne’s city centre, the circuit is an institution on the Australian motorsport landscape.
It has played host to more rounds of the Australian Touring Car / V8 Supercars Championship than any other venue. This year’s running will mark the 43rd time that the series has visited this high-speed circuit.
The circuit was first opened in 1962, the track played host to the non-championship Australian Grand Prix on six occasions. In 1964, the venue staged a six-hour international touring car race, which would eventually gain fame as the Sandown 500.
Featuring two long straights, the track is known for its high speeds and great slipstreaming battles, with the best overtaking spots being at the Turn 1 and Turn 9 left-handers, which are the track’s heaviest braking zones.
As it’s built within the confines of the horse-racing facility, its safety barriers are positioned very closely to the margins of the circuit at some points, and circuit run-off is limited. A high-shunt will guarantee a hefty repair bill.
A further 28 faces will grace the field over the next three racing weekends, with the series’ regular drivers paired with co-drivers ahead of the arduous rounds at Sandown Raceway, Bathurst and the streets of Surfers Paradise.
The series’ frontrunners – Red Bull Racing Australia, Holden Racing Team and Ford Performance Racing – have arguably the strongest driver pairings across their respective cars, with names like former full-time racers Paul Dumbrell, Greg Murphy, Steve Owen and Steven Richards on their roster.
The Brad Jones Racing stable has opted for the experience of co-drivers in the form of Luke Youlden and Andrew Jones, while the Garry Rogers Motorsport team will be pinning its hopes on the similar experienced additions of Greg Ritter and Jack Perkins.
The Tekno Autosports squad is the only team to have opted for a truly international flavour in its co-driver selection, and it will be hoping that sports cars aces Marc Lieb (from Germany) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (the Netherlands) will be able to take the challenge to the coterie of Australian and New Zealand guest drivers.
2012 V8 Supercars Sandown 500 Entry List:
|No.||Entry / Team||Lead Driver||Co-Driver|
|1.||Triple 8 Engineering||Jamie Whincup||Paul Dumbrell|
|2.||Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Nick Percat|
|3.||Tony D’Alberto Racing||Tony D’Alberto||Jonny Reid|
|4.||Erebus Motorsport||Lee Holdsworth||Craig Baird|
|5.||Ford Performance Racing||Mark Winterbottom||Steven Richards|
|6.||Ford Performance Racing||Will Davison||Steve Owen|
|7.||Nissan Motorsport||Todd Kelly||David Russell|
|8.||Brad Jones Racing||Jason Bright||Andrew Jones|
|9.||Erebus Motorsport||Maro Engel||Steven Johnson|
|12.||Dick Johnson Racing||Chaz Mostert||Dale Wood|
|14.||Brad Jones Racing||Fabian Coulthard||Luke Youlden|
|15.||Nissan Motorsport||Rick Kelly||Karl Reindler|
|17.||Dick Johnson Racing||Tim Blanchard||Ashley Walsh|
|18.||Ford Performance Racing||Alex Davison||John McIntyre|
|19.||Tekno Autosports||Jonathon Webb||Marc Lieb|
|21.||Brad Jones Racing||David Wall||Chris Pither|
|22.||Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Greg Murphy|
|33.||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Scott McLaughlin||Jack Perkins|
|34.||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Alexandre Prémat||Greg Ritter|
|36.||Nissan Motorsport||Michael Caruso||Daniel Gaunt|
|47.||Erebus Motorsport||Tim Slade||Andrew Thompson|
|55.||Ford Performance Racing||David Reynolds||Dean Canto|
|66.||SuperCheap Auto Racing||Russell Ingall||Ryan Briscoe|
|80.||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||Scott Pye||Paul Morris|
|88.||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||Dean Fiore||Matt Halliday|
|97.||Tekno Autosports||Shane van Gisbergen||Jeroen Bleekemolen|
|360.||Nissan Motorsport||James Moffat||Taz Douglas|
|888.||Triple 8 Engineering||Craig Lowndes||Warren Luff|
Facts, Stats and Predictions
This year’s V8 Supercars Championship battle has been blown wide open in recent rounds, with defending champion and points leader Jamie Whincup enduring a horror run of late, allowing his main rivals to capitalise on the Red Bull Racing Australia driver’s bad luck and sudden loss of pace.
However, the RBRA squad has always been red hot around the flowing Sandown circuit, and equipped with the very capable co-driver line-up of Paul Dumbrell and Warren Luff, it would be a brave punter who would bet against the team doing well this weekend.
If Whincup’s man championship challenger isn’t going to emerge in the form of his own teammate Craig Lowndes, then look no further than the Ford Performance Racing stable, who lead drivers have shown exemplary form in recent rounds.
The standout of this pairing is Mark Winterbottom, who has steadily chipped away at Whincup’s early-season lead to lie just 70 points behind the reigning champion in the championship standings.
The Holden Racing Team should not be discounted for top honours either, with both Garth Tander and James Courtney – in particular – looking particularly quick in the latter rounds. Courtney returned to the winner’s circle last time the field went racing, and he’ll be keen to prove it was no fluke if he wants to see his 160-point deficit to Whincup trimmed.
Ultimately it will probably come down to a three-way fight between the Holden and Ford factory-backed teams, but one should not discount victory coming from one of the fringe outfits like Brad Jones Racing, GRM or Duck Johnson Racing, each of whom have visited victory lane this year.
Sandown Raceway’s two long straights are unlikely to play well into the hands of the Nissan or AMG entries, with Nissan particularly expected to struggle due to its lack of top-end grunt.
Make sure you visit the RichardsF1.com website throughout the weekend for all the latest news, highlights and gossip from Sandown Raceway!