2018 Red Rooster Sydney Supernight 300 Preview
Sydney Motorsport Park will play host to the first Supercars night race at the circuit since 1996, with what is shaping up to be the most-watched round of the year apart from the Bathurst 1000.
The night event takes on special meaning as the sole 300 kilometre race is worth 300 championship points for the drivers, double the usual amount. With the season into its second half, there are still several drivers in contention for the prized title before time runs out and this race could be a deciding factor.
Only a small number of drivers and teams have night racing experience – some competed overseas in the 2011 Abu Dhabi race and in other long distance events, while less were around for the night race on the short circuit at Eastern Creek 21 years ago or Calder a year later.
Sydney Motorsport Park has carried out a series of night time lighting tests with the help of a couple of Supercars drivers and, by all reports, the track and the pit areas will be well-illuminated. An earlier thought of using a shorter layout was canned in favour of the full 3.91 kilometres once lighting issues were sorted for drivers and television viewing.
There will be a minimum of three stops, so engineers’ strategies will be put to the test. Tyre degradation and fuel loadings will be critical and a big unknown is how the drivers will handle the different dynamics of the track on a cold winter’s night as opposed to the recent 30 degrees plus in the north of the country. A forecast low temperature of around five degrees at race time could see the track damp as night dew settles in.
To add to the challenge there will only be one opportunity to practice in night conditions. The 40 minute practice session on Friday starting at six o’clock will provide an indication of which teams have done their homework or made the best guesses.
The PAYCE/Paynter Dixon supported team of Garth Tander in the #33 Commodore and James Golding in the #34 Commodore both enjoy racing at Sydney Motorsport Park and for Garth it will be his 16th round at the track, while for James it will be his first in a Supercar, although he is very familiar with the circuit from Super2 and test days.
Garry Rogers and the GRM team are hoping for a good round, with the previous round at Ipswich showing progress after a disappointing season to date. Every team is in the same boat, but the pattern of late of just missing out on good qualifying by a few tenths of a second has meant the difference of ten or more positions on the grid.
The saviour has been Garth’s race pace that gave him a podium in Adelaide and seven top ten finishes through the season, but the aim of the team is to get the qualifying right for both drivers and then the race will take care of itself. Garth’s string of 11ths in the two qualifying sessions and in the two races at Ipswich was the most consistent result to date.
James is starting to see positives in his first season as a full-time Supercars driver, with a top ten time in the final practice at Ipswich and his best finish in 15th place after duelling with some of the top drivers in the business.
Supercars’ action gets underway late in the day on Friday when the sun has set. Cars take to the track at 6pm for a 40 minute session that will have everyone’s attention.
It will be the only opportunity to set the cars up for tomorrow’s 300 kilometres race as the next practice session is around midday on Saturday for 30 minutes before the three-part qualifying sessions of 10 minutes each get underway mid-afternoon.
The inaugural 300 kilometre race over 77 laps is set to start at 7.20pm.
Porsche Wilson Security Carrera Cup Australia
This round five of eight is notable on two counts – it will be the first time the Carrera Cup Australia drivers have raced in the dark at Sydney Motorsport Park and only the second time on home soil that they have been joined by the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia field to contest joint races.
Team PAYCE will be represented as usual by David Wall (#1), James Moffat (#38) and Dale Wood (#100) in the Pro category.
Each Carrera Cup field will hold separate practice and qualifying sessions and two races for points in their respective championships, before merging for two joint races.
The first of the joint races will be for Pro-Am drivers only while the second will be for Pro drivers only. In the interests of fairness, the Australian Pro-Am cars will have their ABS disabled in the joint races to align with their Asian competitors.
Jaxon Evans has been the form driver this season, but the three Team PAYCE drivers are well within striking distance for the championship lead. Dale Wood is currently 3rd, but the last round in Darwin was disappointing, with a DNF dropping him a spot.
On a positive note, David and James shared a win apiece, which helped David hold on to fourth place in the championship despite a DNF. James was the consistent one and his two podiums and a 4th brought him up two spots in the championship to currently in 5th place on the leaderboard.
David is likely to have a good round at Sydney Motorsport Park over the two days, barring incidents, given this is his home track not only with the Porsche, but also where he and many of his Wall Racing clients carry out testing. He could probably drive the circuit blindfolded, so the night race should be a breeze.
The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia cars are the first cars on the track on Friday morning for a 30 minute practice session, followed by the Australian contingent, also for a 30 minute practice. Following a 30 minute break while the Australian GTs practice, both Carrera Cup fields return for another set of individual practice sessions. Later in the day each series are back out for their individual qualifying sessions, each of 30 minutes.
Both series are first up on Saturday morning with separate races over 16 laps and a repeat mid-afternoon. Wrapping up their round will be the two joint races – one for Pro-Am around sunset and the other for the Pro class under full lights.
Contact: Bill Smith 0412 446 058