The battle for the V8 Supercar Championship honours heats up once again, with the field heading to Australia’s ‘Top End’ to contest the SkyCity Triple Crown at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway.
|2014 V8 SUPERCARS SKYCITY TRIPLE CROWN
|Date:||20-22 June 2014|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 11:00-11:20|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 12:45-13:05|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 14:25-14:45|
|Race 17 Qualifying||Sat 11:40-11:50|
|Race 18 Qualifying||Sat 12:00-12:10|
|Race 17 (35 laps)||Sat 14:20-15:10|
|Race 18 (35 laps)||Sat 16:30-17:20|
|Race 19 Qualifying||Sun 12:40-13:00|
|Race 19 (69 laps)||Sun 15:15-16:45|
* All session times are quoted in Australian Central Standard Time (GMT +09:30 hrs)
A 2.9-kilometre anticlockwise circuit located on the fringes of the city of Darwin, Hidden Valley Raceway is known for its high speeds and fast lap-times. It’s been on the V8 Supercars calendar since 1998, and it’s the region’s biggest sporting event all year.
For a V8 Supercar to be quick around here, it needs enough mechanical grip to handle the circuit’s 14 turns, as well as plenty of top-end speed to manage the 1.1-kilometre main straight.
Turn 1 – a left-hand hairpin that tightens as it goes on – is the best spot for overtaking, but the gravel trap lining its outer edge has played host to many drivers who have left their braking far too late in trying to pass a rival. Passing opportunities also exist at Turns 5 and 6, while the rest of the lap is rather more ‘follow the leader’ until the cars hit the start/finish straight once again.
Qualifying is important at Hidden Valley, with over two-thirds of races here being won from the front row.
The Form Guide
While the Formula 1 and World Touring Car Championship categories are being almost completely dominated by a single team, the V8 Supercars Championship is enjoying an enormous variety of race-winners. Of the sixteen races held to-date, ten different drivers have stood on the top step of the podium – two new winners for 2014 joined the ranks last time out at Perth.
The championship standings suggest the championship should be a three-way fight between Ford’s Mark Winterbottom and the two Red Bull Racing drivers, Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes. All have won three races apiece in 2014, and further victories will do their championship aspirations no end of good.
Lowndes will be hoping he can celebrate his 40th birthday this weekend in style with a race win or two. The veteran is mounting his most serious crack at the championship with another win in Perth, and he’ll be keen to overhaul Winterbottom and retake the Drivers’ Championship lead.
Whincup is still playing catch-up. Breaking his podium drought helped move him to fourth in the championship standings, but if he has a wobbly round here then his championship defence could go off the rails.
Championship leader Winterbottom is enjoying his most consistent run to-date and his record at Hidden Valley is formidable. He’s qualified inside the top five in all but one of the last dozen races held here, and he’s finished on the podium nine times in the last twelve. Expect him to be a contender for podiums and wins this weekend.
‘Frosty’ didn’t have it all his own way at the series’ last hit-out in Perth; twice he was beaten home by rising FPR teammate Chaz Mostert – who claimed outright victory in the final race at Barbagallo – and the youngster is showing plenty of class.
Keep an eye out for the flamboyant David Reynolds in FPR’s satellite car, the Bottle-O Racing Ford. Reynolds has a very impressive record at the Darwin circuit, and he should be knocking on the door for his first podium finish – or possibly a surprise win – after a tough start to his season.
The other major player in the championship mix is Fabian Coulthard. The Brad Jones Racing driver has been a quiet model of consistency so far, netting hatfuls of points every weekend to lie third in the points standings.
But the spoiler this weekend – as has been the theme for much of 2014 – will be Scott McLaughlin in the Polstar GRM Volvo S60. The baby-faced Kiwi claimed the carmaker’s breakthrough win in Perth, and Darwin’s long front straight could allow the blue car to really stretch its legs and mix it at the front.
This weekend’s format sees the field tackle to 100-kilometre races on Saturday before a longer 200-kilometre run on Sunday. An added challenge will be the restriction to just two sets of Dunlop’s Hard and Soft tyre compounds apiece – the Soft rubber can only be used on Sunday – which will make tyre management a huge challenge in the typically warm conditions.
Images via Edge Photographics
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