Continuing on the journey South in the lead up to the endurance season, the Supercars Championship is in Western Sydney this weekend for the Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint.
Utilising the Sydney Motorsport Park circuit (formerly Eastern Creek), this round is the final SuperSprint of the year as well as the last race before the Enduro Cup kicks off next month.
|Sydney Motorsport Park|
|Location||Eastern Creek, New South Wales||Circuit Length||3.930 km / 2.440 mi|
|Opened||1990||First ATCC Event||1992|
|Direction||Anticlockwise||Lap Record||1:28.8272 – Chaz Mostert (2016)|
Located in Sydney’s outer western suburbs, the Sydney Motorsport Park is Australia’s only FIA Grade 2 International licensed permanent circuit. The track staged both motorcycle and car races for many years, hosting high-profile events such as the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and three rounds of the A1 Grand Prix championship.
The track quickly became a favourite amongst riders and drivers alike, the circuit offers a variety of challenging and technical corners on a layout that offers a number of passing opportunities around the lap.
The circuit first hosted the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1992 and it remained on the calendar for all but two years until 2008. Dropped from the calendar in 2009, it was a last-minute addition to the calendar in 2012.
In 2013, the circuit received $7 million worth of government funding to co-finance a major upgrade of the circuit which reconfigured it into four layouts, with two able to be operated at the same time, with a total length of 4.5 kilometres. The extended ‘full’ circuit layout included an 830-metre ‘Brabham Loop’, which has not been used since the circuit returned to the V8 Supercars calendar in 2014.
|2017 Virgin Australian Supercars Championship – Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint|
|Event Dates||18-20 August 2017||Format||SuperSprint|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 12:50-13:35||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 15:30-16:15|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 11:25-12:10||Race 17 Qualifying||Sat 13:35-13:50|
|Race 17 (31 laps)||Sat 16:25-17:30||Race 18 Qualifying||Sun 11:00-11:20|
|Race 18 (52 laps)||Sun 14:00-15:30|
Session times quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 10:00)
Rewind to 2016
Chaz Mostert had his Prodrive Falcon dialled in for race one’s qualifying session, taking pole from Shane Van Gisbergen by over two tenths of a second, setting a new lap record in the process. Jamie Whincup took third place on the grid ahead of DJR Team Penske’s Scott Pye, one of his best career qualifying efforts.
While Mostert led off the line, a mistake on the opening lap was enough of an invitation for Van Gisbergen to pass. Whincup followed suit two turns later, making it a Red Bull one-two at the front of the field. A fumbled pass by Pye on Mostert saw the pair run wide and Courtney take advantage, moving himself into the podium placings early on in the piece. Pye soon retired with a power steering issue while the rest of the pack came in for their compulsory pit stops. Van Gisbergen was first, followed by Courtney and Mostert with Whincup coming in last of the lead bunch, looking to have grip in the dying stages of the race.
The order after the pit stops was Van Gisbergen, Whincup, Scott McLaughlin, Craig Lowndes and Slade. The strong tyre life of Courtney and Mostert saw them soon occupy third and fourth with five laps to go. Van Gisbergen and Whincup battled hard towards the end of the race, Whincup looking for his 100th victory and Van Gisbergen wanting to cut down his team-mate’s championship lead. The season-long battle finally produced contact when, with four laps to go, Whincup tried to pass Van Gisbergen on the inside of turn two but couldn’t get through. The Kiwi held the lead to win with Whincup having to settle for second, another one-two for the team while Courtney held off Mostert for third.
Sunday’s qualifying session was much the same as Saturday’s with Mostert picking up another pole for the weekend. Van Gisbergen and Whincup secured the next two spots with their team-mate Lowndes in fourth ahead of what was to be his 600th championship start. The third row was a Volvo affair with McLaughlin and James Moffat locking out fifth and sixth respectively.
The first start was aborted after an issue with the starting lights nearly caused drama. A second formation lap followed with the race being shortened by a lap. As the race started proper, it was Lowndes who pulled off a blinder, going around the outside of Mostert into turn one, taking the lead as the field headed to turn two. Van Gisbergen dropped back at the start, now behind Whincup, Moffat and McLaughlin. The Triple Eight Kiwi was the first of the lead bunch to pit, his team-mates coming in for rubber and juice the next lap. McLaughlin stopped next with Moffat and Mostert doing the same a few laps later. Lowndes retained the lead after his pit stop with Whincup and Van Gisbergen behind.
The second round of stops saw Lowndes in at the same time as Whincup though the veteran had to give up his lead after taking on more fuel, giving the effective lead of the race to the six-time champion. Mostert emerged in third after everyone had taken their minimum amount of fuel, the Kiwi drivers Van Gisbergen and McLaughlin racing behind him. Moffat had great car speed, passing his team-mate and closing in on Van Gisbergen. However, an attempted pass saw the pair make contact and with Van Gisbergen spinning. Despite Moffat’s redress of the position, he was handed a drive-through penalty which left him and his team fuming. At the finish, nothing could stop Whincup as the #88 pilot took his 100th career victory, only the second driver to do so. Lowndes followed him home though still leading the table for career wins with Mostert coming home in third.
The Form Guide
Sydney Motorsport Park’s high-degradation nature makes it a good track for those who can be kind to their tyres, such as Mostert and McLaughlin. The pair have been successful in terms of one-lap pace at the venue, Mostert taking four poles here in his career while McLaughlin has managed three. You’d be crazy for thinking the numebr won’t increase, at least for McLaughlin, this weekend. He’s taken the past five poles of the season and is only two away from matching Whincup’s 2014 season record.
Speaking of the sport’s statistically greatest driver, Whincup’s sub-par weekend in Ipswich will be enough motivation for him to get back up at the pointy weekend this weekend. Never one to sit down and take it, six titles reflect on Whincup’s character to never give up, especially heading in to the endurance season where he is always a force to be reckoned with.
In summary: McLaughlin is the man to beat in qualifying and is good at carrying speed into the race but Whincup and Mostert have experience at this venue, not to mention the determination to win. Coulthard and Van Gisbergen will also be looking to get back on the top step of the podium after suffering lacklustre rounds recently.
|2017 Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint Weather Forecast|
|Friday||7°C – 17°C||Saturday||4°C – 17°C||Sunday||4°C – 17°C|
Images via Red Bull Content Pool