OTR SuperSprint – The Bend Preview
This weekend’s rounds of Supercars and Porsche Wilson Racing Carrera Cup Australia promise to be exciting and unpredictable, with both categories visiting the new circuit for the first time.
Located 100 kilometres south-east of Adelaide, the world-class circuit has a number of configurations, but this meeting will be on the 4.945 km ‘technical’ track which features 18 turns and a 270 kmh straight.
The owner of the venue and the designer of the layouts are to be congratulated for giving the sport such an outstanding permanent facility that will surely become one of the country’s favourites for drivers and fans.
The venue has received high praise from a number of experienced drivers who participated at the first meeting in April in GT machinery and more recently at a test day for V8 Touring Cars that race in the third tier Kumho-sponsored series.
Flying the flag for Team PAYCE/Paynter Dixon in Supercars this weekend are Garth Tander (#33 Commodore) and James Golding (#34 Commodore) in the Wilson Security Racing GRM team and Macauley Jones (#14 Commodore) as a wildcard entry from Brad Jones Racing.
In the Porsche Wilson Racing Carrera Cup Australia, David Wall (#1), James Moffat (#38) and Dale Wood (#100) will be out to build on their current good form with some more podiums.
The weather forecast is for mild conditions with cold mornings and peaking to around 20 degrees by mid-afternoon. No rain is forecast, which will be a relief to teams who will have their hands full without the added challenge of a wet track.
With just 89 points separating the two leading point scorers – Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen – this round could be a game-changer to the championship outcome. There are a number of other drivers still in the title race, but the gap to them is starting to stretch and it would need for the top two to have some bad results to be overtaken.
However, there are still a couple of sprint races to go as well as the three endurance races so it’s likely there will be some surprises along the way.
For Team PAYCE/Paynter Dixon, the prospects of a good result are looking good. All teams are on a level playing field as far as knowledge of the track goes and this could be the round where the GRM team finds those elusive tenths of a second to bring cars #33 and #34 closer to the front of the grid.
Garth Tander was one of several drivers to compete in the first race held at the circuit, driving an Audi R8 LMS. Garth has commented that he believes there was no great advantage gained and that the experienced drivers will not take long to come to grips with the layout.
James Golding is finding form and at the last round in Sydney he produced a top 10 time in practice with 7th fastest and backed it up with a 13th fastest qualifying time and 13th finishing position for his best round result to date in his rookie season.
The track surface is not expected to be overly abrasive, but the engineers will still need good strategies for the soft tyre selected for this meeting. The track is considered to be very technical, with its fast flowing corners set to challenge both the engineers and drivers.
All eyes will be on the timing board in the first two practice sessions to see who has made a good call from the outset. As the weekend progresses, times could be expected to fall as drivers get their heads around the layout and more rubber is laid down.
The field is expanded to 28 cars for this round, with Super 2 drivers, Macauley Jones and Kurt Kostecki, entered as wildcards. Team PAYCE member, Macauley displayed outstanding form at his last outing in Townsville where he was set for wins in both Super 2 races before a suspension component failure in both races put him back in the pits for repairs.
Track action gets underway on Friday with two 45 minute sessions then a further 45 minute practice session on Saturday morning before a short 15 minute qualifying session for race one over 24 laps (120 kilometres) to wrap up the race program for the day.
Sunday morning has a 20 minute qualifying session to set the grid for the afternoon race over 41 laps (200 kilometres).
Porsche Wilson Racing Carrera Cup Australia
This weekend’s round is also the first time the Carrera Cup category has appeared at the circuit and, as with the Supercars, there are a lot of unknowns to contend with.
The opening meeting at the track in April included the Porsche Michelin GT3 Cup Challenge and no doubt some Carrera Cup teams would have sought feedback from the Challenge teams.
David Wall and James Moffat both had podiums at the last round in Sydney and their experience over the years of racing at different tracks should give them an edge.
A strong field of 23 cars is entered for round six of the championship, leaving just Bathurst and the Gold Coast rounds to complete the season.
As evidence of how competitive the racing has been this season, the past six races have had six different winners, including David Wall, James Moffat and Dale Wood.
A highlight of the weekend will be the resumption of the endurance series within the championship, with the Saturday race over 20 laps (100 kilometres) being the fourth of the six races that make up the Endurance Cup series.
Dale Wood is the current leader of the endurance series and he will be out to clock up some good performances after suffering DNFs in Sydney and Darwin.
David Wall, James Moffat and Dale Wood are holding onto third, fourth and fifth positions respectively on the championship leaderboard and will be looking to narrow the gap to the two top point scorers, Jaxon Evans and Dylan O’Keeffe.
Track action gets underway on Friday with two 30 minute practice sessions. Saturday’s qualifier will set the grid for race one, the endurance race over 20 laps, later in the day.
The cars return on Sunday for two eight lap races, the last being the curtain-raiser to the feature Supercars race.
Contact: Bill Smith 0412 446 058