2017 Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint Preview
Supercars make a welcome return to Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend for round 9 of the championship. It’s been a long break since the cars last raced at the track in July last year and since then there have been lots of changes involving drivers, cars and tyres.
There was a one-day test in February of this year at the track, which gave teams the first opportunity to try out the new super soft tyres, but overall the general consensus was that little was revealed and that the most benefit came from clocking up some track time.
Weatherwise, teams are in for a shock after the hot conditions experienced at the northern rounds, with maximum temperatures forecast to be in the mid-teens. Strong winds are also set to continue into the weekend which will add to the challenges for drivers and engineers.
Once again, the Wilson Security Racing GRM team will be behind the eight ball with no past data from the Volvos applicable to the new Commodores.
However, the Garry Rogers Motorsport team can be very pleased with their progress through the year as they continue to develop the #33 and #34 Commodores for Garth Tander and James Moffat. No team has worked harder at the track and back at the workshop in the development of these cars.
In recent rounds the cars have performed well with race pace, while their qualifying times continue to creep closer to the front runners. It is just those allusive fractions of a second in lap times that is the difference between being well inside the top 10 in qualifying or back down the order fighting for position. Just when the GRM team thinks it has caught up with improvements, the goalposts shift with the opposition also finding that little extra.
The last round at Ipswich was probably the most disappointing one of the season for the GRM team, and despite trying lots of combinations, the team could not get replicate some of the recent performances that saw them pick up a couple of top 10 finishes.
That is unlikely to deter them though, and a strong showing from all the team members is anticipated as they see the Sydney track as one of their favourites with lots of good memories over the years.
Along with many other teams, GRM will also debut the new improved leg protection in the cockpit of its Commodores ahead of the new regulations that come into force from the Sandown 500 round onwards.
It’s a move welcomed by all drivers who appreciate the increased level of safety the system will provide, especially at the fast tracks where there have been a number of incidents in the past that resulted in injuries to legs.
The 3.91 kilometre Eastern Creek track with its mix of 11 tight and flowing turns ensures some exciting battles, if past rounds there are any indication. Tyres will once again play a strategic role and grip levels are usually low, so a well-balanced car is a necessity to put in fast laps. It won’t be surprising to see new records set throughout the weekend.
James had a good run at the track last year in the Volvo and having settled well behind the wheel of the #34 Commodore can expected to do well.
Garth, of course, is very familiar with the circuit and it was here that he had his first drive with the GRM team in 1999 before moving on to other teams. The fact that he still holds the lap record for fastest lap in the V8s, achieved in 2012 in a Commodore, should give him added incentive to put on a good show for his many fans.
Despite all the challenges thrown at the GRM team through the year, Garth still sits inside the top 10 in the Drivers Championship in 9th spot and James not far behind in 12th place. The team itself continues to sit in 4th place on the Teams Championship leaderboard and are determined to consolidate that position this weekend.
Action gets underway on Friday with two 45 minute practice sessions. Saturday morning has a third practice session followed after lunch by a 20 minute qualifying session and a 31 lap 120 kilometre race to wrap up the day’s program. Sunday will have qualifying late morning before the cars grid up for the longer 200 kilometre race of the round over 52 laps.
This will be the last round before the long-awaited endurance races get underway, starting with Sandown 500 next month.
Team PAYCE will be represented as usual by Richard Muscat (#44 Commodore) and Mason Barbera (# 99 Commodore) from the GRM stable and Macauley Jones (#14 Commodore) from Brad Jones Racing.
It has been a long break for the Super2 teams, with the last round being at Townsville in early July. Fortunately, all three drivers were able to gain some track time with the Additional Drivers session for enduro co-drivers at Ipswich, which saw Macauley and Richard in their respective drives. Mason returned to his seat in SuperUtes for both Townsville and Ipswich.
Racing in Super2 has been super-competitive throughout the season and Team PAYCE drivers have consistently been well inside the top 10, both in qualifying and in the races.
At the last round in Townsville, Richard finished both races with third place podiums and Mason celebrated his first top 10 result, finishing in 9th place. Macauley topped the second practice session and had a best 7th place in race one.
The current standings in the championship have Richard in 6th place, Macauley 10th and Mason 17th.
Super2 has its first race on Friday afternoon after a 40 minute morning practice and 20 minute qualifying sessions. Race two and three on Saturday will see the cars grid up in the order they finished in the previous race. Race four on Sunday will be the curtainraiser for the feature race of the Supercars round.
The next round for Super2 will be at the Sandown 500 where both Richard and Macauley will do double duty as co-drivers in the first endurance race of the season.
Contact: Bill Smith 0412 446 058