The curtain will come down on a long, challenging and enthralling V8 Supercars Championship season this weekend, with the field taking to Sydney Olympic Park for two 250-kilometre races, including the championship’s first ever twilight race.
While the new technical regulations and the addition of two manufacturers has seen a season with more individual race-winners than ever before, the showdown for title glory will once again come down to the factory Holden and Ford teams.
|2013 V8 SUPERCARS SYDNEY NRMA MOTORING & SERVICES 500
|Date:||06-08 December 2013|
|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 09:50-10:20|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 11:55-12:25|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 13:10-13:40|
|Free Practice Session 4||Fri 14:50-15:20|
|Race 35 Qualifying Session (Preliminary)||Sat 11:55-12:15|
|Race 35 Qualifying Session (Top-10 Shootout)||Sat 14:05-14:35|
|Race 1 (74 laps, 250km)||Sat 17:10-19:20|
|Race 36 Qualifying Session||Sun 12:40-13:00|
|Race 2 (74 laps, 250km)||Sun 15:05-17:15|
|Past Winners:||Will Davison (Ford Falcon FG)||2012 (Race 2)|
|Craig Lowndes (Holden Commodore VE)||2012 (Race 1)|
|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.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
Notwithstanding the battle for championship honours, this weekend will be unique in the championship’s history, with Saturday’s 250-kilometre race being staged in twilight conditions – a first for the series.
The concept was developed by the series’ new CEO James Warburton, who is using this weekend as a test to see if the altered timeslot draws in bigger crowds through the turnstiles and on TV.
The challenge for the drivers and teams will be immense. Such is the timing of Friday’s practice sessions, Saturday’s 74-lap race will be the first time they will have experienced driving around the daunting circuit in the twilight conditions. It’s more than likely we could see some visibility-induced incidents as the sun heads towards the horizon.
Past events staged here have thrown up some surprise results, not least of which being the shock victory for Jonathon Webb at the inaugural race, where survived a downpour and climbed his way up the field to secure his first and only visit to the top step of the podium.
While the battle for the Drivers’ Championship title remains – mathematically, at least – a four-horse race, in reality it will probably go down, once again, to one of the Triple 8 Engineering drivers.
Red Bull Racing Australia teammates Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes are separated by a scant 20 points.
With a maximum of 300 up for grabs over Saturday and Sunday, Sunday’s finale will prove the decider unless disaster strikes one of the two on Saturday.
Mark Winterbottom lies in touch in third place in his Ford Performance Racing Falcon, but he and teammate Will Davison would really need a miracle on Saturday to get themselves back into contention.
While Whincup will be campaigning for his fifth championship title – and his third on the trot – his form at Sydney is surprisingly poor: he’s never finished on the podium here.
Contrastingly, teammate Craig Lowndes has won here twice (he’s the only repeat winner here), and while the veteran’s last championship crown came way back in 1999, he almost deserves the mantle of favourite to sweep to the trophy this weekend.
As a new face in the form of Nick Percat hits the grid for the first time – he replaces the injured James Courtney in the #22 Holden Racing Team entry – a series veteran will be bedding farewell to the sport.
Russell Ingall, the 2005 series champion, will strap on the helmet for the last time as he calls time on his Australian touring car career, which began way back in 1996. ‘The Enforcer’ is one of the series’ true characters, and the sport will be the poorer without his straight-talking antics. His seat will be taken over by Tim Slade, who leaves Erebus Motorsport after an underwhelming year.
Along with Slade, the weekend will also mark the final outings for a number of driver/team combinations. Championship outsider Will Davison will have his last hit-out at FPR ahead of his move to Erebus Motorsport, while the likes of Scott Pye (Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport) and Chaz Mostert (Dick Johnson Racing) will also have their last hit-outs for their respective teams ahead of off-season moves.
The futures of a number of out-of-contract drivers remains unknown, and the battle for the remaining few seats will become even tougher amidst rumours that next year’s grid won’t feature a full compliment of 28 cars.
The likes of Maro Engel (Erebus Motorsport), Alex Davison (FPR), David Wall (Brad Jones Racing), Tim Blanchard (Dick Johnson Racing) and Alexandre Prémat (GRM) are all effectively on the market, and will be hoping to deliver strong performances to remain in with a chance of landing a full-time drive next year.
Make sure you visit the RichardsF1.com website throughout the weekend for all the latest news, highlights and gossip from Sydney!