After a three week break the Supercars championship returns this weekend, arriving at the Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin. 

The top end has always produced great races as well as many firsts for drivers throughout the field. Being one of the northern rounds, Darwin is the first in the run of races which allow teams, especially those based around Melbourne, to escape the winter.

The Circuit

Hidden Valley Raceway

Hidden Valley Raceway
Location Darwin, Northern Territory Circuit Length 2.870 km / 1.783 mi
Opened 1986 First ATCC Event 1998
Direction Anticlockwise Lap Record 1:06.0258 – Craig Lowndes (2016)

A 2.87-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 dusty run-off 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 Event

2017 Virgin Australian Supercars Championship – CrownBet Triple Crown
Event Dates 16-18 June 2017 Format SuperSprint
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 12:10-12:55 Free Practice Session 2 Fri 15:00-15:45
Free Practice Session 3 Sat 09:25-10:10 Race 11 Qualifying Sat 13:50-14:05
Race 11 (42 laps) Sat 16:15-17:15 Race 12 Qualifying Sun 09:40-10:00
Race 12 Top-10 Shootout Sun 11:00-11:30 Race 12 (70 laps) Sun 13:30-15:05

Session times quoted in Australian Central Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 09:30)

Rewind to 2016

Last year was a big weekend for the Supercars community in Darwin. Shane Van Gisbergen took pole for Saturday’s race with Nissan pilot Michael Caruso putting his Altima in to second place. Caruso took the lead off the start while an incident near the end of the lap between Garth Tander and Nick Percat broke off the rear door of the latter’s car. The safety car was deployed to clean up the debris, bunching the pack back up.

At the restart, Van Gisbergen passed Caruso coming up to the control line, earning a drive through penalty for breaking restart procedure. Behind them on the straight, Jamie Whincup and Scott Pye made contact with the DJR Team Penske driver touching the inside concrete wall. Will Davison took the lead after the Van Gisbergen and Caruso struggle though lost the lead due to the undercut Caurso had made post his pit stop. The Nissan driver came home to win, his second career win (his first coming at Darwin in 2009), followed by Whincup and Chaz Mostert.

For Sunday’s 200km race it was again Van Gisbergen who took pole, this time after the top ten shootout. Todd Kelly lined up alongside him in his Nissan with defending champion Mark Winterbottom in third. The opening lap ended in tears for many, notably Lee Holdsworth who made side-on contact with a concrete wall, fracturing his pelvis, two ribs and his left leg. Only a few seconds later a hard crash took out Fabian Coulthard after contact with Mostert and James Moffat.

Most drivers elected to take a pit stop under the safety car with double stacking hampering some. At the restart, Winterbottom missed his braking markers and hit Todd Kelly’s car, dropping the Nissan a few spots back and earning himself a drive-through penalty. Pye and Caruso made contact, breaking the former’s suspension and causing him to stop on the main straight. The safety car came out again with Van Gisbergen holding the lead from Craig Lowndes at the restart. The final safety car period came out to collect bits of Tim Blanchard’s tyre, once again condensing the field. Winterbottom’s hard day got worse after hitting Aaren Russell off the track, receiving another drive-through penalty. At the front, it was Van Gisbergen who held the lead, taking another win ahead of Tim Slade and Lowndes.

Michael Caruso, Nissan Motorsport Altima - 2016 Darwin Triple Crown

Michael Caruso claimed Nissan Motorsport’s sole win of the 2016 season in Saturday’s race.

The Form Guide

Yet again we come to a round with the top cars in the championship split by only a handful of points. Fabian Coulthard still leads but is a mere four points ahead of six-time champion Jamie Whincup who is still looking for his first win of the year. Hot off the back of taking three wins in a row and a solid fifth over the last two rounds, Scott McLaughlin is third in the standings with defending champion Shane Van Gisbergen in fourth. Mechanical trouble last round means Chaz Mostert has dropped further back from the points lead but is still 200 points of the top.

This weekend’s race sees the championship celebrate 20 years of racing in Darwin. Over those years there have been many close finishes, great battles and big crashes. It’s a round which is highly valued by the community and cherished by Northern Territory residents, being the only round which is easily accessible. Plans to have a twilight race are still being worked out but could bring further attention to the race in the future.

2017 CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown Weather Forecast
Friday Light Rain 11°C – 17°C Saturday Showers 7°C – 17°C Sunday Partly Cloudy 6°C – 18°C

Images via Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Supercars Championship

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Jordan Mulach

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Canberra born and raised journalist, living in Brisbane. Sports Media graduate from the University of Canberra. iRacing addict