The 2015 V8 Supercars Championship returns to street circuit racing for the first time since the non-championship Australian Grand Prix round in March when it heads to the far north of sunny Queensland for the Castrol Edge Townsville 400.
|2015 V8 Supercars Championship – Castrol Edge Townsville 400|
|Date||10-12 July 2015||Lap Length||2.850km|
|Free Practice Session 1*||Fri 08:15-08:45||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 10:45-11:15|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 12:45-13:15||Free Practice Session 4||Sat 09:10-09:30|
|Qualifying – Race 16||Sat 13:10-13:30||Race 16 (70 laps)||Sat 16:15-17:55|
|Qualifying – Race 17||Sun 10:35-10:55||Top-10 Shootout||Sun 13:25-13:55|
|Race 17 (70 laps)||Sun 16:15-17:55|
* Pirtek Enduro Cup co-drivers can participate in this session.
Session times quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT +10:00)
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 2.85-kilometre layout.
Overtaking is certainly a realistic possibility at this venue. Just once in the event’s entire history has the pole-sitter gone on to win the race.
Rewind to 2014
Last year’s event – named the ‘Townsville 500’ adopted the same format at its SuperStreet twin, the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide, with a pair of 125-kilometre races on Saturday followed by a 250-kilometre feature race on the Sunday.
Round 7 of the 2014 season saw Craig Lowndes lose crucial ground in his championship fight with Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom, although the weekend would ultimately prove to be far more troublesome for the latter.
On the opening lap of Race 1, Lowndes made contact with both HRT Holdens of Garth Tander and James Courtney and was then spun into the wall by Will Davison’s Erebus Mercedes, failing to finish a race for the first time since 2012. The stewards hit both Lowndes and Davison with points’ penalties for their respective incidents, while the same fate befell Nissan’s Todd Kelly after he caused Jack Perkins to crash. Whincup went on to win the race from a recovering Tander and Davison.
The HRT squad claimed its second 1-2 finish in successive seasons in Saturday’s twilight race, with Tander leading home Courtney; Fabian Coulthard finished third in his Brad Jones Racing Holden.
Lowndes had more dramas on Sunday when he was given a two-place grid penalty, kicking him off pole position and promoting BJR’s Jason Bright into prime position. The veteran then suffered an engine overheating problem in the race, which dropped him to 23rd place. Whincup won his second race for the weekend, finishing ahead of the ever-consistent Tander, while Shane van Gisbergen claimed the final podium spot in his TEKNO Holden.
Series leader Mark Winterbottom suffered a surprising dose of the ‘wobbles’ in qualifying, lining up poorly for all three races. He managed to scrap his way to a pair of top-ten finishes to maintain his championship lead, albeit significantly trimmed by Whincup thanks to his successes. Lowndes poor results saw him slip to sixth in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
The Form Guide
Defending series champion Jamie Whincup must feel like this weekend’s round will present a dose of ‘history repeating’. As was the case last year, the Red Bull Racing driver will be pinning his hopes on a near-faultless weekend in Queensland if he’s to rekindle his hopes of staying in the championship fight.
The six-time champion is a mammoth 286 points behind current title leader Mark Winterbottom. Despite starting the year well, Whincup has struggled with consistency and has had a couple of very poor weekends to slip to a distant eighth in the current points’ standings. Only a fool would write him off, however, as he clawed back a similar deficit last year (213 points) thanks to two wins at this very venue. With seven wins in thirteen attempts, this is one of the veteran’s best circuits.
Series leaders Prodrive Racing continue to be the pace-setters, and will be bolstered by the recent successes of David Reynolds – who became this year’s eighth different race-winner with victory last time out in Darwin – who can now give the team a third Falcon FG X with which to ward off the chasing Holdens.
Despite coming into the event as clear favourites, you’d have to wind back the clock to October 2013 to find the last time a Ford driver won on a street circuit. The winner? David Reynolds and co-driver Dean Canto – it marked the former’s first of two career wins to-date. Perhaps his win in Darwin might indeed be a good omen…
Recent history at Townsville also suggests that the Holden Racing Team will be another outfit to keep an eye on. Despite teammates Garth Tander and James Courtney suffering two ‘friendly fire’ collisions in as many rounds, the pair have claimed a 1-2 finish here in both of the past two years and will be keen to make it a hat-trick. Tander, in particular, has the better record, with 10 podium finishes here in 13 races.
Images via V8 Supercars Championship
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