V8SC: Race Preview – Rolex V8 Supercars Challenge

Jacob Seelman Featured, International, Supercars 0 Comments

February 28, 2014 — race preview by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman –

Welcome to the second Race Chaser Online V8 Supercars race preview of the season! We take a look at this weekend’s non-championship Rolex V8 Supercars Challenge on the streets of Albert Park as a companion series to the Rolex Formula One Australian Grand Prix. Keep checking Race Chaser Online over the course of the 2014 season for the latest V8 Supercars news and notes!

 

RACE – ROLEX V8 SUPERCARS CHALLENGE

Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Albert Park, Melbourne

5.303 km (3.295 mi) semi-temporary street circuit

RACE INFORMATION:

Friday, 3/14:

Race 1: 12 laps, 63.5 km, start time 11:00 A.M. (8:00 P.M. EST, Thursday 3/13)

Race 2: 12 laps, 63.5 km, start time 2:25 P.M. (11:25 P.M. EST, Thursday 3/13)

Saturday, 3/15:

Race 3: 12 laps, 63.5 km, start time 3:20 P.M. (12:20 A.M. EST)

Sunday, 3/16:

Race 4: 12 laps, 63.5 km, start time 1:15 P.M. (10:15 P.M. EST Saturday 3/15)

2013 WINNERS:

Fabian Coulthard (Races 1, 2, 3), Scott McLaughlin (Race 4)

The V8 Supercars return to action this weekend for the second time in 2014 with the running of the non-points Rolex V8 Supercars Challenge in Melbourne. This season will see the 18th edition of the non-championship affair held again this year as a support division to the Formula One Australian Grand Prix.

The format of the Rolex Challenge remains the same for this weekend as it was in 2013, four half-hour sessions for the V8 Supercars comprised of 12 laps and 63 kilometers per race. However, the points structure for determining the overall winner of the Challenge will change slightly from 2013. The event will utilize the “Super Sprint” points format, with 75 points going to the race winner, for the Friday and Saturday events. Race Four will shift to awarding double points this year, mimicking the system to be used by Formula One, which will have a double-points final race in Abu Dhabi.

TRACK OVERVIEW:

The track has not changed for the 2014 edition of this race; the V8SC will use the same circuit that has been run since 1996. The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is conducive to high speeds and is fairly easy to drive, with many drivers saying that the consistent corner placement allows them to easily learn the circuit and be up to speed in a hurry. However, the flat terrain around the lake combined with a track design that features very few true straightaways means that the track is not built for many overtaking opportunities.

A lap through Albert Park features 16 turns and begins with difficulty right at the start. Turn 1, also known as Brabham Bend, is a very challenging, medium speed corner that often catches drivers out going down into the hard right-hander. While Turn 1 comes at the end of the long frontstretch, it is not a prime passing zone. Drivers brake and shift down into third gear before accelerating upon hitting the exit curb. It is important for drivers to get a strong exit off the corner headed down the second straightaway of the circuit.

Turn 3 is one of the best overtaking opportunities on the entire track, with drivers braking just before the apex for the second gear corner. Drivers can make passes by out-braking their competitors and can pass on either the inside or outside to gain position. Turn 4 is a sweeping left-hander that immediately follows Turn 3; if you take the outside into 3 you end up on the inside for 4. Turn Five is a flat-foot right hand kink that leads to one of the track’s short chutes, where passing is possible but not recommended.

Headed towards the back straightaway complex, turns six, seven and eight make up a difficult set of corners that test a driver’s confidence and skill. Turn Six features a very challenging braking-zone due to shadows obscuring the view of several sections of the race track. The Turn Six complex is even more difficult to navigate in wet conditions (like were experienced during Race Four of the 2013 event) with drivers often unable to see the standing puddles on the circuit, making it easy to spin through the corner. Turn seven is similar to turn two; a fast left-hander after the tricky right-hand Turn Six kink. Turn Eight concludes the bracket-shaped section of the race track, with a long, flat-out right-hander allowing drivers to build speed headed for the back chicane.

Turns 9 and 10 make up a slow chicane that leads onto the back straightaway of the circuit. Drivers will brake about eighty meters from turn nine and need all the traction they can get to carry maximum speed out of Turn Ten. If a driver gets loose under braking or overdrives the corner entry, this section of the race track is another decent passing opportunity.

Turns 11 and 12 make up a challenging, high-speed, left-right chicane where drivers ride the curbs and once again draw the “Three-Strike” rule into action if they cut the curbs too far, however this is often avoided by the fact that catching too much kerb can shift or even damage the car’s balance and take a strong car out of contention in a hurry.

Leaving Turn 12 shoots drivers down another short-chute and towards the final major passing zone on the course, Turn 13. Turn 13, a vicious 90 degree right-hander, can be used for overtaking if a driver can ride in the slipstream of the car ahead of them down the short chute before pulling alongside. Beware though, if a driver gets offline through Turn 13, they can lose a lot of ground because the dirty, slippery nature of the track surface often shoots drivers loose or even around if they aren’t careful.

From the exit of 13, Turn 14 is another 90-degree right-hander that requires a quick lift off the throttle. Turn 15 is the slowest point on the circuit and is a sharp left-hander that leads into the near-flat-out turn 16 where drivers need a strong corner exit to take maximum speed back to the start-finish line.

DRIVERS TO WATCH:

Historically, the Albert Park event has been ruled by the legends of the V8 Supercars world since the first event there in 1996. A total of 52 races have been held in Melbourne over that 17-year span, with “The Enforcer”, Russell Ingall, being the most successful V8 Supercar pilot in Albert Park history with 8 career victories to his name. Garth Tander (7), Craig Lowndes (5) and Jason Bright (5) also headline the list of top drivers with five or more victories to their credit in Albert Park.

It would be a long shot to expect Ingall to contend for the victory, however. Though in his prime he was the perennial favorite at Albert Park, Ingall’s last win at the Melbourne track came eleven years ago, in 2003.

Of late, though, no driver has been better in Albert Park than Lockwood/Brad Jones Racing’s Fabian Coulthard. The Kiwi scored three of the four race wins in Melbourne in 2013 and took home the overall non-points event title for the first time in his career. Coulthard comes into Melbourne with a chunk of momentum, currently sitting second in V8 Supercar points to championship leader Craig Lowndes.

Don’t discount young Scott McLaughlin having a shot at a race win either this weekend. McLaughlin, who launched himself into V8 Supercars lore during the Clipsal 500 after his Race 2 second-place finish and subsequently stunning interview, scored the win in Race Four at Albert Park last year and will be looking to repeat that feat (plus a couple) in 2014. His manufacturer, Volvo, is no stranger to success in Melbourne, with Jim Richards winning all three Super Touring races at Albert Park in an 850 sedan in 1997.

The track qualifying and race lap records are both held by Red Bull Racing Australia, with Jamie Whincup, a two-time Albert Park winner, setting a blistering 1m 55.0805s lap time back in 2012 to claim the qualifying mark, while his teammate Lowndes set the race lap mark at 1m 55.9682s in Race One in 2011. Expect both drivers to be a factor all weekend, and expect Whincup to maybe take a few extra chances to grab a podium or race win in an effort to regain momentum while not affecting his championship standing after a disappointing end to his Clipsal 500 two weeks ago.

Though many won’t expect him to contend for the win, a dark horse for a top five finish would have to be Erebus Motorsport’s Will Davison. Davison, who has yet to win a race at Albert Park, has the best record of consistency of any driver in Albert Park history, finishing in the top ten in all but one of the 22 races held in Melbourne since 2006. Davison has also finished in the top five in overall results every year since they were first recognized in 2008, including a third place overall result in this event a year ago.

And keep an eye on Clipsal 500 champion James Courtney. The winner of Race One in Albert Park in 2010, Courtney’s team, Holden Racing, has claimed 19 career Albert Park triumphs, led by his teammate Garth Tander with seven. While Courtney’s 2010 triumph was in a Ford for Dick Johnson Racing, the New South Wales native and Gold Coast resident will no doubt be on a high after his South Australia victory to open the 2014 season.

Of note, three drivers are making their first appearance in V8 Supercars at the Albert Park circuit. Nick Percat (Coates Hire Racing), Robert Dahlgren (Valvoline Racing GRM) and Chaz Mostert (Ford Pepsi Max Crew) are all debuting in the category at Melbourne this weekend.

For more information on the upcoming weekend and on the V8 Supercars Championship, visit http://www.v8supercars.com.au/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.