For round six of the Supercars Championship, the field heads bush to Ned Kelly country: Winton Raceway in the middle of nowhere. Likened to running a marathon around your clothesline, the tight, twisty track always separates the children from the adults as overtaking is hard and the price to pay for a mistake is massive.
|Winton Motor Raceway|
|Location||Benalla, Victoria||Circuit Length||3.000 km / 1.864 mi|
|Opened||1961||First ATCC Event||1985|
|Direction||Clockwise||Lap Record||1:18.7603 – Chaz Mostert (2016)|
Self-described as ‘the nation’s Action Track’, Winton Raceway’s tight and twisty rural layout is actually the slowest circuit on the entire Supercars calendar.
With twelve corners in all separated by a succession of short straights, one might think that the track would prove tough to overtake on, but that’s actually far from the case.
A top speed of 225km/h can be achieved on the main straight, but the pack has to treat the opening sequence of corners with great care on the first lap. It’s not unusual to see plenty of carnage as the field tries to switchback its way through the Turn 1/2 complex.
|2018 Virgin Australian Supercars Championship – Winton SuperSprint|
|Event Dates||18-20 May 2018||Format||SuperSprint|
|Co-Driver Practice Session||Fri 10:05-10:35||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 12:00-12:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:35-15:20||Free Practice Session 3||Sat 10:30-11:15|
|Race 13 Qualifying||Sat 12:40-12:55||Race 13 (40 laps)||Sat 15:50-17:00|
|Race 14 Qualifying||Sun 10:25-10:45||Race 14 (67 laps)||Sun 13:45-15:35|
Session times quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 10:00)
Rewind to 2017
Last year’s running was an all-Kiwi affair with both qualifying sessions and races being won by drivers from the land of the long white cloud. Scott McLaughlin took both pole positions across the two races on his run to setting the new record in 2017. He converted one of them to a race win in the 120-kilometre Sprint Race on Saturday, winning his third race in a row.
While McLaughlin again led the way in qualifying, an collision late in the race between Michael Caruso and wildcard driver Shae Davies led to a Safety Car, resulting in a sprint to the flag for the top runners. Shane van Gisbergen emerged as the victor ahead of his Red Bull Holden Racing teammate Jamie Whincup and Fabian Coulthard.
The Form Guide
If you hadn’t noticed that Scott McLaughlin is leading the championship by more than a race worth of points, you must have been living under a rock. Last year’s championship bridesmaid has won the last four races and hasn’t shown any signs of letting up. Given his pace here last year, he’ll be the one to expect at the top all weekend long.
With a question mark constantly over the weather at Winton, it’d be unwise to write off Shane van Gisbergen. The 2016 series champion hates driving in the wet but has always been good at it, ending up at the pointy end when it gets a bit damp. He’s the last driver to win at Winton however his teammate, defending and seven-time champion Jamie Whincup, hasn’t won a race at the Victorian venue since 2012. He’ll be looking to break that duck in the hunt to chase down McLaughlin who is 268 points ahead of him in the championship standings.
David Reynolds is the local hero, being born and raised in Albury, just an hour down the road from Winton. The Erebus driver has been hitting his marks this year off the back of his victory at Bathurst last season. Currently sitting in third in the points, the lovable larrikin is wanting to move up the order and put in a title challenge.
|2018 Winton SuperSprint Weather Forecast|
|Friday||5°C – 15°C||Saturday||4°C – 15°C||Sunday||9°C – 16°C|
Images via DJR Team Penske, LAT Images, WMR