After a Ford-fest in the non-championship Australian Grand Prix round a fortnight ago, the V8 Supercars Championship gears up for Round 2 of the 2015 season at Tasmania’s Symmons Plains Raceway.

The Circuit

Symmons Plains Raceway

Symmons Plains Raceway

2015 V8 Supercars Championship – Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint
Date 27-29 March 2015 Lap Length 2.411km
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 10:05-11:05 Free Practice Session 2 Fri 13:25-14:25
Free Practice Session 3 Sat 11:20-11:35 Qualifying – Race 4 Sat 12:55-13:05
Qualifying – Race 5 Sat 13:20-13:30 Race 4 (25 laps) Sat 15:15-15:45
Race 5 (25 laps) Sat 17:15-17:45 Free Practice Session 4 Sun 10:20-10:35
Qualifying – Race 6 Sun 11:55-12:15 Race 6 (84 laps) Sun 14:00-15:25

Located about 30 kilometres south of Tasmania’s second-largest city, Launceston, Symmons Plains Raceway has been the premier motor-racing facility on the ‘Apple Isle’.

Aside from Sandown Raceway, Symmons Plains is the second longest-serving circuit in the combined history of the Australian Touring Car and the V8 Supercars Championships. The track played host to rounds of the championship every year between 1969-99 before dropping off the calendar and returning in 2004. Ahead of its return, the circuit received a $3 million upgrade that saw some modifications to the track’s layout – primarily being a relocation of the start/finish line to being opposite the pits.

This narrow rifle-shaped circuit is a popular venue for drivers and teams, and despite its short layout and tight confines, the track presents two very good overtaking opportunities each lap. Its extremely tight and (unusually) banked hairpin bend, known as Brambles Hairpin, is one such spot, although it relies on the driver ahead cooperating with the move. The second main passing spot is into the penultimate corner after the cars blast along the circuit’s long sprint between Brambles Hairpin and Turn 6.

The heavy stopping points place a premium on brake wear.

Rewind to 2014

Triple Eight Race Engineering dominated last year’s event, which was also the second round of the season.

Defending champion Jamie Whincup led a Red Bull Racing 1-2 in qualifying for all three races, however Lowndes was disqualified from Race 2’s qualifying session when it was found that the team had illegally covered up air ducts on his Holden to increase the car’s straight-line speed.

Whincup won the first race following a controversial incident with Lowndes while the pair battled for the lead, squeezing his teammate off-track in a bold passing move at Turn 6. James Courtney and Mark Winterbottom completed the podium, while Whincup quickly sought to patch things up with his clearly frustrated teammate.

Whincup also won the second race ahead of Winterbottom and Fabian Coulthard, while Lowndes drove a storming race from the back of the grid to fifth place.

Lowndes’ impressive run continued in Sunday’s feature race, taking a strong win ahead of Whincup and Courtney. Will Davison finished fourth to equal the Erebus Motorsport team’s best result in the series. Lowndes maintained his lead in the championship standings, while Whincup moved up from seventh to second on the points’ table, 70 points behind.

The Form Guide

This will be the first ‘Supersprint’ round of the season, featuring a pair of 60-kilometre sprint races on Saturday and a longer 200-kilometre race on Sunday featuring a compulsory pit stop. Series tyre provider Dunlop will provide its Hard rubber for the entire weekend.

The lead-up to this weekend’s has been dominated by the decision of local driver and series returnee, Marcos Ambrose, to step back from full-time driving with the DJR Team Penske outfit. The two-time series champion made a high-profile comeback to the series after ten years spent racing in the NASCAR scene, but has struggled to adapt to the vastly changed landscape of Australian touring cars. His seat is being taken over by Scott Pye.

While the last hit-out in Melbourne was simply a case of racing for sheep stations, that didn’t prevent a few cars from copping some serious damage, which is hardly the sort of preparation a team needs ahead of a journey to the ‘Apple Isle’ just two weeks later. The damage bill from the weekend was estimated at almost $1 million, with the biggest victim being Nick Percat, who will race with a ex-TEKNO Autosport chassis after his LDM car was too badly damaged to be repaired in time.

The other major point of interest will be the strong showing from the Prodrive Racing pair of Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert, who claimed four successive 1-2 finishes during the Australian Grand Prix round in their new Falcon FG X racers. It was a dominating display from the duo that could prompt suggestions that the frontrunning Red Bull Racing and HRT Holdens will be seriously threatened in the championship battle.

That being said, the Albert Park circuit shares few characteristics with other tracks on the 2015 calendar, while many rivals openly admitted that they were using the Melbourne event as a long test session to prepare themselves for the rest of the season. If ‘Frosty’ and Mostert are on the pace once again here, then expect a few worried faces up and down pit lane.

Images via V8 Supercars Championship

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Christian Hartung