After taking a month long hiatus, the Supercars Championship is back on track this weekend, visiting the ‘Top End’ to escape the harsh Australian winter.

Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway is celebrating its twentieth year on the Supercars calendar, looking to add another great year to the already growing legend of the Northern Territory round.

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 Race Lap Record 1:06.6747 – Scott McLaughlin (2017)

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 Supercars calendar since 1998, and it’s the region’s biggest sporting event all year.

For a 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

2018 Australian Supercars Championship – CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown
Event Dates 15-17 June 2018 Format SuperSprint
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 12:00-12:45 Free Practice Session 2 Fri 15:10-15:55
Free Practice Session 3 Sat 10:50-11:25 Race 15 Qualifying Sat 13:05-13:20
Race 15 (42 laps) Sat 16:15-17:15 Race 16 Qualifying Sun 09:25-09:45
Race 16 Top-10 Shootout Sun 10:45-11:15 Race 16 (70 laps) Sun 13:30-15:05

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

Rewind to 2017

Last year’s Saturday race saw Nissan capitalise on the form they had shown the year before with Rick Kelly taking his first pole for the Japanese marque. While he was the one to beat in qualifying, a lack of race pace meant saw him drop down the order until a stuck throttle sent him off the track, ending his day early.

Fabian Coulthard started from third but took the win, leading home a DJR Team Penske 1-2 from Scott McLaughlin with Nick Percat making an appearance on the podium for Brad Jones Racing.

Sunday’s running started with McLaughlin taking another pole position in a year where he set a new record for starts from the number one spot. The Kiwi retained the lead throughout the race, holding off the Triple Eight pair of Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen for the win. The good results over the weekend boosted DJR Team Penske’s aspirations in the Teams’ Championship title.

The Form Guide

This season is proving to be unpredictable, at least if you look at the list of winners so far. With eight different winners already from five different teams, it’s hard to pick who will do well at each round. For Darwin, Rick Kelly and the Nissan boys are coming in with speed from previous years as well as confidence after winning the Saturday race at Winton.

As usual, you can’t write off Scott McLaughlin who is the qualifying king and won the last race here in 2017. The young gun is leading the championship standings, desperate to win his maiden title after just missing out last year. Consistency will be his focus this year as he has minimised the errors while trying to win races. Coulthard too will be encouraged by his Sunday win at Winton, wanting to fight back up the front and haul his team back up in the points standings.

The Triple Eight cars will always feature near the top, especially Shane van Gisbergen who is having a quiet year but still sitting second in the standings. Likewise, defending champion Jamie Whincup is still near the top despite a few issues this season, wanting to get back up the front sooner rather than later. Craig Lowndes has the chance this year to beat Mark Skaife’s win record at Hidden Valley, having attended all 20 years of racing at the Darwin venue.

2018 CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown Weather Forecast
Friday Partly Cloudy 20°C – 30°C Saturday 21°C – 32°C Sunday Partly Cloudy 20°C – 31°C

Image via Red Bull Holden Racing Team

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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