After three exciting endurance events in Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast, the V8 Supercars drivers return to solo driving duties for the penultimate championship round at Phillip Island.
The overall battle for title honours remains on a knife-edge with five drivers still in mathematical contention for the Drivers’ Championship crown: the Red Bull Racing Australia pairing of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes will do battle with the Pepsi Max Ford Performance Racing combination of Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison. Lockwood Racing’s Fabian Coulthard is a rank outsider, but stranger things have happened…
|2013 V8 SUPERCARS SARGENT SECURITY PHILLIP ISLAND 360
|Date:||22-24 November 2013|
|Race Lap Record:||1:33.2700, Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore VE) – 2012|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 11:20-11:50|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 12:50-13:20|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 14:20-14:50|
|Free Practice Session 4||Sat 10:30-11:00|
|Race 32 Qualifying||Sat 12:55-13:15|
|Race 32 (14 laps, 60km) – First Leg||Sat 15:45-16:20|
|Race 32 (14 laps, 60km) – Second Leg||Sat 16:35-17:10|
|Race 33 Qualifying||Sun 11:10-11:25|
|Race 34 Qualifying||Sun 11:35-11:50|
|Race 33 (23 laps, 102km)||Sun 13:45-14:30|
|Race 34 (23 laps, 102km)||Sun 16:25-17:15|
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.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
This weekend will – mercifully – mark the sixth and final time that the 60/60 SuperSprint format will be run in its current guise. While the double-leg race plays an important part of the overall championship outcome, the format of a point-less opening race has proven to be universally unpopular. No one will miss it on Sunday.
Nonetheless, the Saturday action does present an interesting conundrum. Only once has the winner of the opening ‘race’ (and we’re using the term generously here) gone on to win the more important second leg.
The statistics for Saturday honours are heavily stacked in favour of Jamie Whincup, who is the only driver to do the double in the five previous runnings of the 60/60 format (at Ipswich), as well as winning a leg apiece at Tasmania and Darwin respectively.
While Lowndes has managed one win (at Barbagallo Raceway), fellow Ford Performance Racing championship rivals Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison haven’t won a single 60/60 race leg between them.
Lowndes heads into this weekend having overtaken Whincup in the Drivers’ Championship standings, although he leads his teammate by a scant six points.
While Whincup has led the way for much of the 2013 season, momentum – and statistics – are very much on Lowndes’ side as the 39-year-old series veteran targets his first V8 Supercars Championship title since 1999.
Lowndes has an enviable record at Phillip Island, netting five positions and eight race wins around the high-speed circuit, in contrast to a pair of victories for his teammate.
Third and fourth in the points race are Winterbottom and Davison. Both have very solid records around Phillip Island, but will face an uphill task to close and overhaul Lowndes and Whincup over the remaining two rounds of the championship.
Such are the vagaries of the championship’s absurdly high points-scoring system, no driver in the series’ history has ever won the title from third or worse in the standings with two rounds to go.
One major talking point leading up to this weekend’s event was the effect that the recently resurfaced track would have on the control Dunlop tyres, following a rather farcical MotoGP championship round here which saw the track surface destroy the tyres.
A Dunlop-sanctioned test was conducted at the circuit in the lead-up to the event, with the tyre supplier confirming that the new surface won’t cause any problems. In fact, Dunlop predicted that the circuit’s lap record would be smashed this year.
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!