2018 Perth SuperSprint Preview
The Supercars and Super2 teams make the long trek west this week to the Barbagallo Raceway, 45 kilometres north of Perth as the 2018 season gets into full swing.
This meeting will be round four for Supercars and round three for Super2. PAYCE and PAYNTER DIXON supported drivers comprise Garth Tander and James Golding (Wilson Security Racing GRM) in Supercars; and Chris Pither, Mason Barbera (Wilson Security Racing GRM) and Macauley Jones (Brad Jones Racing) in Super2.
The tight 2.4 kilometre Barbagallo circuit encourages close racing and with its high tyre degradation presents a major challenge for tyre management along with pit stop strategies. Weatherwise, the forecast suggests mild conditions with mid 20 degree temperatures and the possibility of some showers on Sunday.
The previous round at Phillip Island showed that while the new ZB Commodores are off to a strong start, both the Falcons and the Nissans are still in the game. By Sunday afternoon, there should be a clearer picture of how the season may pan out, but there is a long way to go and more development to come from most teams. Phillip Island suited the DJRTP Falcons, helped along by the outstanding performances by Scott McLaughlin in clocking up two poles and converting them into two race wins, indicating it will be an exciting battle for the championship title again this year.
With 10 races decided to date, seven have been won by the new Commodores, three by Falcons and the Nissan has had a couple of podium finishes, which would indicate that the parity is not too far off the mark.
Add to the mix there have been five different race winners and the potential for more highly rated drivers yet to stand on the top step of the podium. There are seven drivers in the field who have tasted victory at the track, including GRM’s Garth Tander.
The track has a reputation for being relatively Safety Car free, with just one intervention over the last 10 races, so teams need to factor that in and not rely on a Safety Car appearance this year as a race strategy.
The Wilson Security Racing GRM team continues to move forward in the development of the two new cars with Garth in the #33 Commodore clocking up five top 10 finishes to date, including a third place podium at the Adelaide round. Last year was Garth’s first year back with the GRM team after a long absence and he started the weekend in Perth with the fastest time in the first practice. He finished the round with two top 10 finishes – tenth in the first race and ninth in the second.
James Golding in the #34 Commodore is on a fast learning curve in his first full year of Supercars and continues to impress with his tenacity and skill, but working your way through the pack is not easy, even for the seasoned drivers. James’ times are not far off the pace of the majority of the field, but with the competition so close again this year, just a few tenths of a second can be the difference between being in the top ten or back near the rear of the field. James had a second place podium in a Super2 car at his last visit to the track in 2016, so familiarity with the track should not be a problem.
There will be two 45 minute practice sessions on Friday followed by a third session of 20 minutes on Saturday morning.
Qualifying will see the three-part elimination format as debuted at Symmons Plains in Tasmania introduced at Barbagallo. The new format is intended to avoid traffic-related incidents as have occurred in the past at the shorter tracks. It was supported overall by drivers and their teams, as well as by the fans for adding more interest to the round
Saturday’s practice and three short qualifying sessions will set the grid for 50 lap race one later in the day, while Sunday’s short 20 minute practice and three-part qualifiers will set the grid for the longer 83 lap race.
The Super2 field returns to Barbagallo for round three of the championship after an absence last year.
The two PAYCE supported drivers, Chris Pither (#44 Commodore VF11) from the GRM team and Macauley Jones (#14 Commodore VF11) from Brad Jones Racing are off to a great season start with Chris second in the standings and Macauley fourth.
Mason Barbera (#99 Commodore VF11) from GRM has had some strong performances to date, including a top ten finish, but unfortunately more than his fair share of bad luck in both rounds, with two DNFs.
Chris Pither and the GRM team will no doubt be hoping for a continuation of the form he showed in Tasmania where he topped both qualifying sessions before going on to three podium finishes, including a win in race two. Those results jumped him up five positions from the opening round and just one spot way from the top of the leaderboard.
After a relatively quiet start in Adelaide it was a great confidence builder for the team to have Chris on the front row for each of the three Symmons Plains races. Macauley also had a good last round in Tasmania, qualifying strongly and coming away with a podium third and just missing out on another podium with a 4th and a 6th. As a result of his placings, he moved up the ladder an extra spot to be fourth on the leaderboard, despite a couple of off-track excursions.
Paul Dumbrell has been the form driver to date, notching up four wins, with Chris and Jacobson one each. On the other hand, Chris has had three poles to Dumbrell’s two and Jacobson’s one. Chris’ starts could have been better, and that is an area he recognises he has to work on if he is to take out the championship.
Action on track for the Super2 field gets underway on Friday with two 40-minute practice sessions, then a short 10 minute qualifying session on Saturday for the 28 lap race one preceding the feature race. Sunday wraps up the round with another 28 lap race, with grid positions set by the finishing order in Saturday’s race.
Bill Smith 0412 446 058