The Supercars Championship returns to the streets for the first time since the season’s opening round in Adelaide. Townsville is a popular race for the Northern Queensland punters, giving a good mix of a dedicated race circuit and bumpy, city streets.
|Townsville Street Circuit|
|Location||Townsville, Queensland||Circuit Length||2.860 km / 1.777 mi|
|Opened||2009||First Supercars Event||2009|
|Direction||Clockwise||Lap Record||1:12.1443 – Jamie Whincup (2016)|
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 2.86-kilometre layout.
|2017 Virgin Australian Supercars Championship – Watpac Townsville 400|
|Event Dates||07-09 July 2017||Format||SuperStreet|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 12:10-12:50||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 15:05-15:45|
|Race 13 Qualifying||Sat 12:30-12:50||Race 13 (70 laps)||Sat 16:10-17:50|
|Race 14 Qualifying||Sun 10:55-11:15||Race 14 Top-10 Shootout||Sun 13:15-13:40|
|Race 14 (70 laps)||Sun 16:10-17:55|
Session times quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 10:00)
Rewind to 2016
Saturday’s running last year was seemingly dominated by the #88 Commodore of six time champion, Jamie Whincup. The Red Bull pilot scored his first pole position of the year, providing a front row lockout with his team-mate, Shane Van Gisbergen.
In the race, the pair stayed in order off the line, staying out in front at the start of the race. On lap two, Rick Kelly spun Tim Slade, the former then also being hit by Nick Percat while stopped on track; this earned the Nissan driver a drive-through penalty. Van Gisbergen was the first of the opening pair to take his pit stop on lap 14 with Whincup coming in two laps later. The pit order in the second round of stops changed with Whincup getting priority, Van Gisbergen coming in a lap later. He and Mostert battled for a few laps, though it was the Kiwi who prevailed. Winterbottom was able to pass his team-mate for third before the safety car was deployed to retrieve Percat’s stricken car. The order stayed much the same after the safety car period with Whincup winning ahead of Van Gisbergen and Winterbottom.
Sunday’s grid was determined by a qualifying session and a top ten shootout. The shootout saw Winterbottom score pole ahead of Lowndes, with the Red Bull pair of Whincup and Van Gisbergen on the second row.
At the start, Reynolds got a blinder from fifth, jumping up to second on the opening lap. Winterbottom held the lead while Van Gisbergen was the first of the front bunch to pit on lap 12. The leader pitted next, followed by Reynolds. Whincup’s stop came late on lap 24, rejoining in twelfth thanks to running on worn tyres. Winterbottom retained the lead ahead of Van Gisbergen and Reynolds before the first safety car was deployed after Kurt Kostecki crashed.
The field took their second round of stops in the safety car period, Whincup being the biggest beneficiary thanks to taking on a smaller fuel load, elevating him to fourth. Van Gisbergen took the lead a lap after the restart, passing Winterbottom at the final turn. The order stayed roughly the same until another safety car came out thanks to Andre Heimgartner stopping on track. Some drivers outside the top pecking order stopped for fresh tyres. At the restart, Van Gisbergen extended his lead as Courtney sliced through the field on new tyres, moving up from ninth and battling for a podium spot in the final laps. Van Gisbergen won but Courtney passed Winterbottom in a drag race to the finish line, taking second place and leaving the defending champion in third.
The Form Guide
After a dominant Darwin for DJR Team Penske, the team comes to Townsville with both cars one-two in the points, separated by only ten points. However, their rivals aren’t far behind, Whincup sitting 16 points short of the championship lead and yet to win a race, Van Gisbergen in fourth 178 points behind Coulthard. If we look back to Adelaide, both teams had very similar pace around a similar style circuit, each having strengths and weaknesses at different points.
Prodrive now has almost nothing to lose and Mostert has pace to burn, sitting 304 points off the championship leader (over a round behind) thanks to mechanical failures and struggles for pace. He and Winterbottom have shown good pace around the Reid Park circuit in the past and will be looking to capitalise on that this year.
The revolving door of LDM continues to turn with Aaren Russell jumping in to the seat of the #3 machine this weekend. While Taz Douglas drove the car at the start of the season, Matt Brabham drove the car in Perth with Cam McConville stepping in for Darwin. McConville had to ditch this weekend’s event due to work commitments, allowing Russell to make his main game solo return.
|2017 Watpac Townsville 400 Weather Forecast|
|Friday||18°C – 26°C||Saturday||18°C – 27°C||Sunday||19°C – 26°C|
Images via Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Supercars Championship