Surfers Paradise will play host to the final round of the Enduro Cup for the sixth year in a row, putting a full stop on the season of endurance around the tight and twisty street circuit.
After a short, two-week turnaround from the Bathurst 1000, the 52 drivers must reset and change their mentality to take on the two 300-kilometre, 102-lap races along the beachfront.
|Surfers Paradise Street Circuit|
|Location||Sorfers Paradise, QLD||Circuit Length||2.984 km / 1.854 mi|
|Opened||1991||First ATCC Event||1994|
|Direction||Anticlockwise||Lap Record||1:10.0499 – David Reynolds (2013)|
The Gold Coast, affectionately known by locals as the ‘Goldie’ is the perfect beachside location for this high speed, adrenalin pumping street circuit.
The circuit is based in the heart of Surfers Paradise and is a shortened version of the previous IndyCar layout. Now sitting at just shy of three kilometres in length, the drivers reach top speeds of 265 km/hr and average around 146 km/hr as they make their anticlockwise way around the track.
Past races have always produced plenty of carnage, particularly when drivers don’t show the patience and finesse required for victory. The co-drivers will have to tread carefully to ensure they can hand the cars over the main drivers with all wheels and panels undamaged.
With everything to play for as the championship comes to a close, a clean weekend is crucial for the title protagonists who will want to stay away from the typical carnage seen in the long, hard race around the Gold Coast streets.
|2018 Australian Supercars Championship – Vodafone Gold Coast 600|
|Event Dates||19-21 October 2018||Format||Enduro Cup|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:40-11:10||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 13:45-14:15|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 17:00-17:30||Race 26 Qualifying||Sat 10:05-10:25|
|Race 26 Top-10 Shootout
||Sat 11:25:11:50||Race 26 (102 laps)
|Race 27 Qualifying
||Sun 10:20-10:40||Race 27 Top-10 Shootout||Sun 11:40-12:05|
|Race 27 (102 laps)
Session times quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT +10)
|2018 Australian Supercars Championship – Pirtek Enduro Cup Entry List|
|#||Team / Entry||Driver||Co-Driver|
|1.||Triple Eight Race Engineering||Jamie Whincup||Paul Dumbrell|
|2.||Walkinshaw Andretti United||Scott Pye||Warren Luff|
|5.||Tickford Racing||Mark Winterbottom||Dean Canto|
|6.||Tickford Racing||Cameron Waters||James Moffat|
|7.||Nissan Motorsport||Andre Heimgartner||Aaren Russell|
|8.||Brad Jones Racing||Nick Percat||Macauley Jones|
|9.||Erebus Motorsport||David Reynolds||Luke Youlden|
|12.||DJR Team Penske||Fabian Coulthard||Tony D’Alberto|
|14.||Brad Jones Racing||Tim Slade||Ashley Walsh|
|15.||Nissan Motorsport||Rick Kelly||Garry Jacobson|
|17.||DJR Team Penske||Scott McLaughlin||Alexandre Prémat|
|18.||Charlie Schwerkolt Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Jason Bright|
|19.||TEKNO Autosports||Jack Le Brocq||Jonathon Webb|
|21.||Tim Blanchard Racing (BJR)||Tim Blanchard||Dale Wood|
|23.||Nissan Motorsport||Michael Caruso||Dean Fiore|
|25.||Walkinshaw Andretti United||James Courtney||Jack Perkins|
|33.||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Garth Tander||Richard Muscat|
|34.||Garry Rogers Motorsport||James Golding||Chris Pither|
|35.||Matt Stone Racing||Todd Hazelwood||Bryce Fullwood|
|55.||Tickford Racing||Chaz Mostert||James Moffat|
|56.||Tickford Racing||Richie Stanaway||Steve Owen|
|78.||Nissan Motorsport||Simona de Silvestro||Alex Rullo|
|97.||Triple Eight Race Engineering||Shane van Gisbergen||Earl Bamber|
|99.||Erebus Motorsport||Anton de Pasquale||Will Brown|
|230.||23Red Racing||Will Davison||Alex Davison|
|888.||Triple Eight Race Engineering||Craig Lowndes||Steven Richards|
Rewind to 2017
After taking a record breaking pole time at Bathurst, Scott McLaughlin shocked the paddock on Saturday by failing to qualify inside the top ten for Tace 1. Starting twelfth, he was far off the pace of pole-sitter Chaz Mostert.
With rain bucketing down, Mostert’s co-driver Steve Owen led early on but was soon overtaken by Andre Heimgartner, driving the #14 BJR Commodore with Tim Slade. Heimgartner had won the earlier Carrera Cup race and was in the zone as the rain continued to come down. He extended his lead as Owen and Paul Dumbrell in the #88 Jamie Whincup car made contact at the Turn 1 chicane, spinning Owen and earning Dumbrell a penalty.
The main drivers stepped in and the race seemed to be going incident free until Lee Holdsworth hit a tyre barrier, parking his Preston Hire Racing Commodore in the middle of the track. Triggering the Safety Car and a round of stops, an awkward mistake in the pit stop for Heimgartner/Slade saw them lose the lead, leaving Cam Waters at the front of the pack with teammate Mostert close behind.
Mostert took the lead soon after the restart and remained there until the flag, taking the win from pole and leading home Waters for a Prodrive one-two while Slade got up onto the podium in third after leading a good portion of the race.
Sunday’s race started with a Triple Eight top-three as the factory Holden cars took out the top spots on the grid as Whincup’s title rival McLaughlin again struggled in qualifying, starting thirteenth.
A clash involving Saturday’s hero Heimgartner saw the #14 car spun at the back end of the circuit, only just avoiding the #17 with Alexandre Prémat behind the wheel.
As the race kept rolling towards the finish, McLaughlin started an attack on the leaders, being assisted by a risky early stop to jump both Shane van Gisbergen and Whincup for the lead. It then became a fuel race to the flag as McLaughlin kept the pace up but would have obviously been compromised compared to his two rivals behind him.
McLaughlin was the first to the finish after an incredible drive, leading home Whincup and van Gisbergen. Showing how marginal he was on fuel, he ground to a halt on the cool-down lap.
The Form Guide
With the championship now effectively a two-horse race between the top Kiwis, it’s anyone’s game around Surfers Paradise. Shane van Gisbergen leads the way in the championship but only by a mere 19 points, the same as it was when the Enduro Cup started at Sandown.
Showing strong form of late in the new ZB Commodore, Triple Eight has finally got their heads around the new car, taking the last six victories with van Gisbergen last being the first to the flag at The Bend. As he hunts down a second title, it will be crucial for co-driver Earl Bamber to keep it clean at the Gold Coast, so far proving his worth but now being put into a trial by fire in his last appearances for the year.
Hot on the heels of van Gisbergen is fellow Kiwi, Scott McLaughlin. Taking his first Supercars podium at Bathurst, McLaughlin took back some of the points he had lost to his title rival at Sandown and in previous rounds. Despite being the in-form man in qualifying, potentially taking the Armor All Pole Award this weekend, McLaughlin hasn’t been on the top step of the podium since Race 1 in Ipswich in July, slowly losing points in his championship charge along the way. It really is anyone’s game in the run up to Newcastle as the likable Kiwi tries to take a maiden championship after getting agonisingly close last year.
The battle for third in the championship is almost as enthralling as the race for the main trophy with seven-time and defending champion Jamie Whincup only 85 points ahead of his veteran teammate and current Enduro Cup leader, Craig Lowndes. Whincup and his co-driver Paul Dumbrell dominated the Sandown 500 while a wheel falling off at Bathurst dropped them down the order, resulting in a fightback to tenth. Lowndes and Steven Richards took a fairy-tale twelfth combined Bathurst 1000 victory last time out (seven for Lowndes, five for Richards), helping their chances to take the Enduro Cup together in their last year partnered up before Lowndes retires. Both pairs of drivers have good form around the Gold Coast but it’ll be hard to topple Whincup who won’t take kindly to being effectively out of the title fight.
Images via DJR Team Penske, LAT, Motorsport.com, Prodrive Racing, Supercars