The fifth round of the 2019 Supercars Championship will see the field head west and race under a floodlit Barbagallo Wanneroo Raceway for the first time, with the races taking place on Friday and Saturday nights in what will be another action-packed event for trackside and armchair fans alike.
|Barbagallo Wanneroo Raceway|
|Location||Neerabup, Western Australia||Circuit Length||2.411 km / 1.498 mi|
|Opened||1969||First ATCC Event||1973|
|Direction||Clockwise||Lap Record||55.9440 – Jason Bright (2004)|
Originally opened in 1969 as Wanneroo Park, the circuit – located 50 kilometres north of Perth – held a non-championship Australian Grand Prix in 1979, and in 1992 it was renamed Barbagallo raceway in honour of the prominent motorsport identity, Alf Barbagallo, who helped fund major work to improve the circuit.
The seven-turn circuit produces a high-speed and short lap-time of less than a minute for this championship, and it calls on drivers and engineers to ensure they have a well set-up car. The opening section is narrow and twisty, leading on to the hill on the far side of the track. The off-camber Turn 6 feeds the drivers back in the other direction on the track’s longest straight towards the final corner, a 90-degree right-hander at the bottom of a steep hill and a test for the cars.
|2019 Virgin Australian Supercars Championship – Perth SuperNight|
|Event Dates||02-04 May 2019||Format||SuperNight|
|Free Practice Session 1||Thu 18:40-19:10||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 12:45-13:15|
|Race 11 Qualifying (Part 1)||Fri 15:25-15:35||Race 11 Qualifying (Part 2)||Fri 15:40-15:50|
|Race 11 Qualifying (Part 3)||Fri 15:55-16:05||Race 11 (50 laps)||Fri 18:45-19:40|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 13:05-13:35||Race 12 Qualifying (Part 1)||Sat 14:50-15:00|
|Race 12 Qualifying (Part 2)||Sat 15:05-15:15||Race 12 Qualifying (Part 3)||Sat 15:20-15:30|
|Race 12 (83 laps)||Sat 18:45-20:15|
Session times quoted in Australian Western Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 8:00)
Rewind to 2018
Following a clean sweep of the two Phillip Island races, Scott McLaughlin made it four victories on the trot with a maximum 300-point haul at last year’s Perth SuperSprint round to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings. His pair of wins proved crucial in the DJR Team Penske driver’s tilt at clinching a maiden Supercars Championship title after narrowly missing out in 2017 to Jamie Whincup.
Saturday’s run to victory in its shorter 120-kilometre race proved relatively straightforward. Having qualified on pole, the New Zealander was untouchable and managed a race of high tyre wear to perfection. He made one pit stop while a number of his rivals opted for two, with Tickford Racing’s Mark Winterbottom (who claimed his only podium finish of a poor 2018 campaign) and Red Bull Holden’s Shane van Gisbergen rounding out the top-three.
McLaughlin’s task of extending his unbeaten run looked to be in peril when he qualified a lowly 19th-fastest while van Gisbergen claimed pole position. Van Gisbergen had a poor getaway at the start and lost the lead of the race to teammate Jamie Whincup by Turn 1. Further around the lap there was contact between WAU Holden’s Scott Pye and McLaughlin’s teammate Fabian Coulthard – the latter being tipped into a spin by the former – which McLaughlin was able to pick his way through to move up the order.
An early Safety Car interruption and pit stop helped his cause further, with the DJR Team Penske crew opting to load him up with fuel for a long second stint. As his rivals’ tyres gave out and forced them into the pits, he steadily worked his way forward to assume the race lead, which he kept after his second compulsory pit stop.
A late charge from the Erebus Holden of David Reynolds looked to potentially threaten McLaughlin, but he kept things under control to secure his fourth win in a row. Reynolds finished a fine second, while Craig Lowndes claimed third position with a hard-fought race from the last row of the grid.
The Form Guide
The fact that this is the series’ sole nighttime round – taking over from last year’s very successful return to floodlit racing last year at Sydney Motorsport Park – has taken a back seat, with the headlines of late being dominated by Supercars ruling that the all-conquering Ford Mustang has undergone further changes in a bid to restore parity with its rivals. The decision has attracted much controversy and criticism – our resident Supercars writer Jordan Mulach penned his thoughts here – among drivers, teams and fans alike.
Following a centre of gravity ballast adjustment increase before the third round at Symmons Plains, the Ford Mustangs continued to dominate the results and won three of the next four races in Tasmania and the subsequent event at Phillip Island.
The Mustangs will now be fitted with smaller rear wing endplates, a reduced gurney flap and front undertray. None of the field’s six Ford runners have had the opportunity to test the new aerodynamic changes ahead of the Perth SuperNight round, which will leave them with limited practice time to fine-tune their set-ups ahead of qualifying and the races.
Whether this dramatically shakes up the form guide remains to be seen. Added to the Barbagallo circuit’s rather unique characteristics and its particular ability to chew through tyres, this weekend’s racing will not serve as an accurate barometer of the impact of these changes.
In other news, it looks like Jack Le Brocq has a stay of execution at TEKNO Autosports amid rumours that the relationship between the one-car team and last year’s top rookie driver has broken down in the wake of a poor start to their 2019 campaign. Le Brocq was rumoured to be replaced by teenage racer Alex Rullo after Phillip Island.
The grid will also be expanded with a wildcard entry. Having retired from full-time racing at the end of 2018 to focus his efforts on managing a satellite entry with Brad Jones Racing, Tim Blanchard will make a one-off appearance for the team in the fourth Holden Commodore ZB the outfit ran for Jack Smith in Tasmania. Blanchard’s car will run in a striking Petronas-sponsored livery that copies that used by the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team, and race with the #77 in deference to Valtteri Bottas leading the Drivers’ Championship standings.
|2019 Perth SuperNight Weather Forecast|
|Thursday||10°C – 21°C||Friday||15°C – 27°C||Saturday||14°C – 23°C|
Images via Brad Jones Racing, DJR Team Penske, SPR, Supercars