For the first time since 2009, the Supercars Championship season will race on an all-new purpose-built Australian race track: The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia
Located just outside of the small town of Tailem Bend – which is less than 100 kilometres southeast of Adelaide – the circuit was opened this year. It will be a wildcard in the championship race thanks to the lack of knowledge that drivers and teams have on it.
|The Bend Motorsport Park|
|Location||Tailem Bend, SA||Circuit Length||4.950 km / 3.076 mi|
|Opened||2018||First Supercars Event||2018|
|Direction||Clockwise||Lap Record||To be set|
Australia’s newest motorsport facility, The Bend Motorsport Park boasts a variety of circuit layouts which can host almost any form of racing. In its longest configuration, its 7.7-kilometre ‘GT’ layout makes it the lengthiest FIA Grade 2/ FIM Grade A-standard permanent circuit in the world.
The facility was developed with the support of the South Australian state government and Australian federal government to redevelop the former Mitsubishi test track at Tailem Bend. In a bid to help boost the rural town’s accommodation offerings, developers built a 100-room hotel in the floors above the circuit’s pit and paddock complex, all with balconies overlooking the circuit.
The 4.95-kilometre ‘International’ layout used for the Supercars Championship comprises a mix of technical corners, fast-flowing sections across its undulating layout that will provide an enjoyable and challenging lap for drivers.
Its long start/finish straight provides the most obvious overtaking opportunity, although a tricky change in elevation on approach to Turn 1 will invite mistakes by both the cars on the attack and defence. Another passing opportunity exists on the approach to the tight Turn 6 left-hander, which feeds onto a seemingly never-ending sequence of right-handers marking Turns 7 to 10 which will torture the tyres.
|2018 Australian Supercars Championship – OTR SuperSprint|
|Event Dates||24-26 August 2018||Format||SuperSprint|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:45-11:30||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 15:05-15:50|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 10:35-11:20||Race 22 Qualifying||Sat 13:15-13:30|
|Race 22 (24 laps)
||Sat 16:20-17:15||Race 23 Qualifying||Sun 10:50-11:10|
|Race 23 (41 laps)
Session times quoted in Australian Central Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 09:30)
The Form Guide
Almost everyone in a car with four tyres and enough power could be a competitor this weekend with an obvious emphasis being placed on how fast the teams and their drivers understand how to tackle The Bend.
While Scott McLaughlin still leads the points standings, the seven wins under his belt bode well so far this season as he continues his hunt for a maiden championship title. His arch-rival Shane van Gisbergen has momentum after winning the last two races on the trot which included an epic dogfight between the pair last time out under floodlights at the Sydney Motorsport Park.
As usual, the likes of Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes, Fabian Coulthard and David Reynolds can’t be written off as they’ve all racked up wins this year and have form on European style circuits.
The biggest news leading up to this event is that Todd Hazelwood has made a major switch for the rest of the year effective immediately, moving back into his ex-Triple Eight VF Commodore after struggling this year in the old DJR Team Penske FG-X Falcon. The 2017 Super2 champion and current main game rookie has struggled to make progress this year with his Matt Stone Racing team, opting to revert back to the car in which he won last year’s second division championship.
Given his VF Commodore is a version older than the ZB Commodores raced by the rest of the Holden runners, Hazelwood – who sits last of the full-time drivers in the championship standings – will not find this switch improves his competitiveness at all over the remainder of the season, however this will give the team time to refamiliarise itself with Holden machinery ahead of a switch to the newer model next year.
Images via Supercars Championship and Tickford Racing