The V8 Supercars Championship makes its first of three visits to ‘The Sunshine State’ of Queensland, and this weekend the 25-car field will by vying for honours on the streets of Townsville.
The series’ last hit-out in Darwin provided fans with plenty of strategic intrigue, and this weekend should deliver more of the same. Saturday will feature two 125-kilometre races, while Sunday’s feature battle will be a longer-form 250-kilometre test of endurance and racecraft.
|2014 V8 SUPERCARS CASTROL TOWNSVILLE 500||Date:||07-06 July 2014|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:10-10:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 11:40-12:00|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 12:50-13:10|
|Free Practice Session 4||Sat 10:30-10:50|
|Race 20 Qualifying||Sat 11:40-11:50|
|Race 21Qualifying||Sat 12:00-12:10|
|Race 20 (44 laps)||Sat 14:15-15:15|
|Race 21 (44 laps)||Sat 16:50-17:50|
|Race 22 Qualifying||Sun 11:00-11:20|
|Race 22 Top-10 Shootout||Sun 12:05-12:35|
|Race 19 (88 laps)||Sun 15:55-17:55|
* All session times are quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC +10:00 hrs)
Located just south of Townsville’s city centre, the temporary street circuit navigates its way through the picturesque Reid Park. The clockwise layout uses a mix of everyday thoroughfares and purpose-built stretches of tarmac.
In many ways, the track is quite reminiscent of Melbourne’s Albert Park Grand Prix circuit, with Turns 2 and 11 representing the best overtaking opportunities on the 2.86km layout.
The Form Guide
This weekend marks the second of the V8 Supercar Championship’s three ‘Super Street’ format events. The first came at the season-opening Clipsal 500, and there we saw the Saturday honours shared by the Red Bull Racing duo of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, while HRT driver James Courtney claimed victory in Sunday’s longer-form race.
While Red Bull Racing may have started strongly, it endured something of a rough trot (by its own lofty standards) prior to Darwin, where Whincup claimed victory in two of the three races, ending a drought where the team had won once in the preceding twelve races.
Defending champion Whincup has the best record since Townsville made its debut on the calendar in 2009, with five victories in ten races to his credit. Courtney’s teammate Garth Tander is the only other multiple winner here.
Whincup will be hoping to continue his winning form after his Darwin successes propelled him to third in the Drivers’ Championship standings, 186 points behind series leader Mark Winterbottom. The reigning champion may have won the most races of the season to-date, but he’s yet to claim a win on Sunday when the bigger points’ hauls are on offer.
Winterbottom is a consistent player at Townsville, and after a brilliant charge through the field in Darwin’s feature race, he’ll be looking to extend his points lead with another solid performance in his FPR Ford Falcon. ‘Frosty’ has claimed three pole positions here, although he’s not managed to convert any of them into race wins – his one win here in 2010 came from sixth on the grid.
Conversely, Winterbottom’s biggest championship threat, Craig Lowndes, has never really gotten to grips with this circuit. The veteran has just two front-row starts and two podium finishes to his credit in ten starts.
Outside of this championship-leading trio, keep an eye out for the HRT Commodores of James Courtney and Garth Tander, who’ve historically gone well here. Courtney had been a model of consistency in 2014, while Tander was victorious here last year and will be desperate to kickstart a rather troubled campaign with a return to the podium.
One should also not discount Shane van Gisbergen in the Tekno Autosports Holden. The Kiwi is something of a street circuit ace, and he’ll be very motivated to give the team a victory as it celebrates its fiftieth championship round start this weekend.
And never discount his compatriot Scott McLaughlin in the GRM Volvo. We’re sounding like a broken record here, but the baby-faced racer has been nothing short of sensational this year. After his oustanding performances on the streets of Adelaide at the start of the year, there’s no reason to suggest why he shouldn’t play a spoiling role on both Saturday and Sunday.
Images via Ford Performance Racing, Ulladulla Times
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