Watpac Townsville 400 Preview
Supercars and Super2 teams return to Townsville this weekend and the Team PAYCE members are no doubt looking forward to enjoying the warm weather again and the welcoming hospitality of the city. The weather forecast over the weekend is for cloudy days, no rain and temperatures up to the high 20s.
The Reid Park track is 2.86 kilometres in length. Add in some bumps, kerbs, heavy braking corners and fast flowing turns and you have the ingredients for interesting competition. Townsville rounds invariably produce two days of exciting racing, including a Supercars top 10 Shootout on Sunday to set the first five rows on the grid in race two.
Garry Rogers Motorsport has had mixed results at the Townsville round over the past few years with the Volvos, but this year the team arrives starting afresh, as it has with all tracks, with very little relevant data carried over that can be applied to the 2017 Commodores.
The last round at Darwin three weeks ago showed both the #33 and #34 cars have good race and qualifying pace now and the earlier Winton test day proved productive, giving the GRM team the opportunity to try new componentry as well as a range of set-ups.
Wilson Security Racing GRM team drivers, Garth Tander and James Moffat are both producing some great results this season as the team’s 4th position in the championship reflects. With some strong individual performances under their belts, Garth goes to Darwin sitting in 10th spot in the Drivers Championship, while James is close behind in 12th place. Garth is also a proven street circuit racer who has been a winner at the Townsville track in the past.
The GRM team could not have been happier when Moff broke the lap record in race one at Darwin and then qualified for the top 10 Shootout, jumping three spots in the shootout to start third on the grid.
Tyres will play a big role this weekend, with teams given an additional four super soft tyres, but four of the 28 tyres will have to be returned after the practice sessions. Tyre degradation is relatively high and the left rear wear will need to be watched. Getting heat into the super soft tyres when it counts – in qualifying and in the top 10 Shootout, will be a challenge the drivers face.
Another big game-changer over the two races could be the appearance of a safety car and how the engineers factor that into their race plans.
The action gets underway on track on Friday with two 40 minute practice sessions. Saturday sees a 20 minute qualifying session early in the afternoon and a 70 lap, 200 kilometre race later in the day to wrap up the day’s program. Sunday kicks off with another 20 minute qualifying session in the morning and the fans’ favourite, the top 10 Shootout, after lunch. The feature race of the day will again be a 70 lap, 200 kilometre race to close off the meeting.
The Super2 teams will be particularly keen to clock up some track time as they have not raced since Phillip Island in April, although young Macauley Jones in the Brad Jones Racing #14 Commodore has had two wildcard runs in Supercars since.
At Phillip Island, both Richard Muscat in the #44 Commodore and Macauley were consistently inside the top 10, both in practice, qualifying and in the four races. Richard had the best result with a 5th in race 3.
Mason Barbera, driving the #99 Commodore, is the newest member to the GRM team and has acquitted himself well in the relatively short time he has been in the category. Expect to see him break into the top 10 in the not too distant future, based on his impressive performances in SuperUtes.
Points-wise, Macauley leads the trio in 9th place in the series championship, with Richard not far off in 12th and Mason in 19th.
The Super2 program action gets underway on Friday with two 40 minute practice sessions, then a midday qualifying session lasting just 15 minutes on Saturday and a curtain-raiser 21 laps or 60 kilometres before the Supercars first race.
Sunday morning they are back on the track for a second 15 minute qualifying session and once again will warm up the crowd with a 21 lap/60 kilometre race before the Supercars grid up for the feature race of the day.
Bill Smith 0412 446 058