The Supercars Championship remains in the ‘Sunshine State’ and will this weekend do battle at Ipswich’s Queensland Raceway, a home track for a number of teams.
|Location||Ipswich, Queensland||Circuit Length||3.120 km / 1.950 mi|
|Opened||1999||First Supercars Event||1999|
|Direction||Clockwise||Lap Record||1:09.6591 – James Courtney 2018|
If we are to be honest, it probably isn’t the most loved track of the season, dubbed the ‘Paperclip’ because of its relatively simple six-turn design and lack of elevation. Furthermore, the changing track temperatures cause all manner of difficulties for the teams as the grip levels change throughout the day. Tyre wear – particular on the left-rears, which take a punishment here – is also a major concern.
It must be said: although it is fairly simple, there is usually relatively entertaining racing. Turns 1, 3, 4 and 6 (most of the turns!) provide pretty good overtaking opportunities and a great spectacle. The 3.12-kilometre track averages about 162 km/hr speeds, with a top speed of about 255km/hr. Good spectator views are also a bonus.
|2019 Australian Supercars Championship – Century Batteries Ipswich SuperSprint|
|Event Dates||26-28 July 2019||Format||SuperSprint|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 11:35-12:05||Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:55-15:25|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 10:35-11:05||Race 19 Qualifying||Sat 13:25-14:05|
|Race 19 (39 laps)||Sat 16:15-17:10||Free Practice Session 4||Sun 09:30-10:00|
|Race 20 Qualifying||Sun 11:20-12:00||Race 20 (65 laps)||Sun 14:10-15:35|
Session times quoted in Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 10:00)
Rewind to 2018
Scott McLaughlin opened the series’ visit to Queensland Raceway in style, claiming victory in Saturday’s opening race from pole position. Thanks to a penalty for Chaz Mostert, who qualified his #55 Tickford Ford Falcon second-fastest, McLaughlin was joined by teammate Fabian Coulthard to give the DJR Team Penske outfit a front-row lockout.
McLaughlin and Coulthard held their grid positions off the start ahead of a fast-starting Shane van Gisbergen who had gained several positions thanks to a lightning getaway. McLaughlin kept his nose clean throughout the race and was never seriously threatened en route to his seventh race victory of his championship-winning season, while the remaining podium positions were disputed between the three Triple Eight Race Engineering cars of van Gisbergen, Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup.
Van Gisbergen went one better on Sunday, beating McLaughlin to victory and ensuring that the two title rivals left the weekend separated by the same points’ margin that they’d arrived with.
While McLaughlin once again claimed pole position – his tenth of the season – van Gisbergen once again made a rocket-like getaway as the starting lights went out. Holding the lead into Turn 1 over McLaughlin, he was able to dictate the pace while DJR Team Penske needed to outwit their rivals on pit strategy.
McLaughlin was called in for his first of two compulsory pit stop relatively early, with the team short-fueling his car to allow him to successfully undercut van Gisbergen, who pitted on Lap 20 and took on more fuel for a longer middle stint. With fresher tyres, van Gisbergen quickly made in-roads, and after their second pit stop cycle (which saw McLaughlin pit earlier and longer), the former champion was assured of the lead and victory.
The Form Guide
Such is Scott McLaughlin’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, the New Zealander could fail to finish both races this weekend and still retain his position at the top of the points’ table – with the only exception being if teammate Fabian Coulthard claimed back-to-back victories in the process.
While the non-McLaughlin fans may bemoan his dominance of the season – he has won 13 of the year’s 18 races to-date, and only twice finished outside the top-two – his results are not down to any apparent advantage enjoyed by the new Ford Mustang. Were that the case, all six of them would be sweeping the field at every round. What we are witnessing is a once-in-a-generation talent who is simply driving in circles around his rivals.
That being said, the preceding round in Townsville proved that McLaughlin can be beaten. The Kiwi finished eleventh – his worst result of the season short of his failure to start in the third race in Melbourne – while his long-time rival and wet-weather maestro Shane van Gisbergen took a fine victory on the damp streets.
Whether McLaughlin will be given a run for his money at DJR Team Penske’s home track remains to be seen. The Shell-sponsored cars have enjoyed a formidable record here and McLaughlin remains the man to beat on Saturday and Sunday. Expect Triple Eight Race Engineering to give the DJR Team Penske duo their closest challenge, given this is also their home test track as well.
In other news, Garry Rogers Motorsport has confirmed that stand-in driver Michael Caruso will remain in the seat of its #33 Holden ZB Commodore this weekend. The team’s regular driver Richie Stanaway continues his recovery from the re-emergence of a neck injury at the Winton SuperSprint in May which has kept him sidelined from the subsequent rounds in Darwin and Townsville. Caruso performed well for the team last time out in Townsville, finishing a fine ninth in the rain-hit Sunday race.
|2019 Century Batteries Ipswich SuperSprint Weather Forecast|
|Friday||7°C – 23°C||Saturday||6°C – 25°C||Sunday||6°C – 24°C|
Images via DJR Team Penske, Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Whiteline Racing