ADELAIDE, South Australia, Australia — Race Preview by Race Chaser Online V8 Supercars Correspondent James Pike –
Welcome to the first of Race Chaser Online’s 2015 V8 Supercars race previews! Before each V8 Supercars race weekend, we will take a look at the track the series will be visiting, and point out the drivers to keep an eye out for during the races. We start with a look at the season-opening Clipsal 500 on the streets of Adelaide. Keep checking Race Chaser Online over the course of the 2015 season for your V8 Supercars news and notes!
RACES 1 – 3: CLIPSAL 500 ADELAIDE
Adelaide Street Circuit, Adelaide, South Australia
3.219 km (2.012 mi) semi-temporary street circuit
Saturday, Feb. 28:
Race 1: 39 laps, 125 km, start time 1:45 P.M. (9:45 P.M. EST Friday)
Race 2: 39 laps, 125 km, start time 4:40 P.M. (12:40 A.M. EST)
Sunday, March 1:
Race 3: 78 laps, 250 km, start time 3:20 P.M. (11:20 P.M. EST Saturday)
Jamie Whincup (Race 1), Craig Lowndes (Race 2), James Courtney (Race 3)
The V8 Supercars return to action and start their 2015 season this weekend with the 17th running of the Clipsal 500 Adelaide in the heart of the South Australia capital.
The 2015 Clipsal 500 will retain the format introduced last year of two 125 km-long races on Saturday, and one 70 lap, 250 km-long race on Sunday. However, the start times for the Saturday races have been moved up to their traditional timeslots, so there will be no twilight race in 2015 (as Race 2 was a year ago).
The Adelaide Street Circuit is notorious for being one of the toughest tracks on the V8 Supercars calendar, as it provides a challenging mix of high speeds, narrow corners, and all sorts of opportunities to run your car into the wall.
A lap around Adelaide starts with a run through a quick left-right-left section known as the Senna Chicane. Cars will often try to cut the curb here, but they do so at their own risk- cut the curb too much, and it will ruin the suspension. The V8SC has a special set of rules just for this part of the track known as the “Three Strike Rule”.
If series officials deem that a car cut too much of a curb, then that car receives a strike. If a car receives three strikes, then it will have to come down and serve a penalty on pit road. There are always a few offenders of this rule during the weekend, so it will be important to see who infringes it — sometimes, it is a major player in one of the races, other times, it is a driver that won’t factor into the finishing order at the front of the field.
After the Senna Chicane comes a section of 90-degree turns through the blocks of Downtown. The most important thing for drivers here will be to make it through this part clean and hit their marks — the unsuspecting driver can run into trouble here and ruin his race if he isn’t careful. Once through this section, the track opens up to the Adelaide and Brabham Straights. Collectively, these two are known as the back straight of the course, and they are separated by the notorious Turn 8.
Turn 8 is a high-speed right-hand dogleg that is easily the most difficult corner of the circuit. Cars will enter the corner at nearly 155 miles an hour with the intention of carrying their speed all the way through. However, Turn 8 narrows considerably on corner exit, and it is common to see cars scrape or hit the wall here hard. It is almost guaranteed that over the course of the weekend that someone will either hit the wall and spin or hit the wall and damage their suspension enough to force a retirement from the race.
After Turn 8, cars thunder down the Brabham Straight to the hairpin at Turn 11. This is the best passing opportunity on the course, and cars will divebomb underneath one another to try and get the preferred line on corner exit (in a manner that is almost identical to Turn 3 on the Indycar street circuit in Toronto). Of course, cars can also make contact here, and drivers can spin out (sometimes in front of the entire field).
From Turn 11, cars work their way around a winding and purpose-built section of track that has been built in the middle of Victoria Park to finish off the lap. This part of the course is not overly significant, but there is a small hairpin on the final corner leading to the front straight that can also serve as a passing opportunity for drivers if they set up the corner correctly.
DRIVERS TO WATCH:
Consider the Adelaide Street Circuit to be the V8 Supercars’ version of what Indianapolis Motor Speedway is to NASCAR, at least in regards to the kinds of drivers that win at both. Normally, Indianapolis is not a place for upset victories (Paul Menard notwithstanding). Such is the case with Adelaide as well. Winners at Adelaide tend to be strong contenders throughout the season, even if their victory comes as a bit of a surprise (as was the case with Shane van Gisbergen’s victory with Tekno Autosport two seasons ago; though it was a surprise at the time, van Gisbergen has since backed that victory up with two very impressive seasons of racing).
Regardless of who wins on Saturday, the Sunday race winner is given the title of Clipsal 500 Champion; in the 16 years of the event, multiple-time winners of the Clipsal 500 include Jamie Whincup (who has won on Sunday four times, but not since 2011), Garth Tander (victorious in 2000 and 2010), and Marcos Ambrose (in 2004 and 2005).
Ambrose will be in the center of the spotlight this weekend at Adelaide, as he makes his return to V8 Supercars for the first time since 2005. Expectations will be high for the two-time series champion to perform well immediately upon return — whether or not that actually happens, however, will come down to how well he has acclimated to the new Car of the Future chassis in the build-up to 2015. Ambrose will start 24th in both races on Saturday.
Besides Ambrose, it should be the usual suspects at the front of the field — Whincup won the pole for both races on Saturday in Friday’s qualifying sessions, shattering the qualifying lap record with a time of 1:20.03. His teammate Craig Lowndes will want to add to his streak of victories (he will be looking for his third race win at Adelaide in as many years) and should also be able to challenge up at the front of the field. One or two podium finishes this weekend should also come from one of (or both of) the Holden Racing Team and Prodrive Racing Australia. HRT’s James Courtney won this event a year ago and teammate Garth Tander is part of that elite multiple-time winner list at Adelaide.
On the Prodrive side of the garage, Chaz Mostert will look to improve upon a strong 2014 with some podiums here, while Mark Winterbottom has a history of grabbing second and third-place finishes here (though it should be noted that both drivers have never finished on the top step of the podium, and Ford has only won one individual race in Adelaide since 2010).
Outside of the regular suspects of Red Bull Racing Australia, the Holden Racing Team, and Prodrive Racing Australia, Wilson Security Racing GRM’s Scott McLaughlin is easily the most likely driver to win a race here. It was in Race 2 one year ago that McLaughlin held off, then got passed by, then slipped past Jamie Whincup in the final corner to finish second in the second race for Volvo on its return to V8 Supercars.
That moment is more famous for McLaughlin accidentally slipping an expletive while he explained how he “gave his car some Jandal” (or flip-flops, as they are known in the United States; it is an expression equivalent of “I just gave it some gas” and the like) in the post-race interview. That moment cemented McLaughlin’s rise to fame in V8 Supercars; in the weeks following that moment, an entire line of jandal-themed merchandise could be found trackside!
It would be a safe assumption, then, that McLaughlin has fond memories of this track from a year ago, and will want to do one position better this time around after being quick not only at Adelaide, but throughout the entire 2014 season. Qualifying went about as well as it possibly could have for McLaughlin — he will start third in Race 1 and second in Race 2. The pace to compete for victory at Clipsal is there with his Volvo; whether or not he does win at Adelaide will come down to a matter of execution — and beating Whincup.
But then again, a race win (or even the title of Clipsal 500 Champion) are far from out of the question — McLaughlin has already beaten Whincup here before!
For more information on the upcoming race weekend, visit the official Clipsal 500 website at http://www.clipsal500.com.au/.
For more information on the V8 Supercars Championship, visit http://www.v8supercars.com.au/.