Preview: Albert Park
It may not be part of the Championship but we all know practice makes perfect, so there is no reason why teams won’t rise to the occasion for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
The Albert Park circuit is used once a year as a race track and is what we like to call a hybrid – it includes all the usual exciting street circuit pitfalls but is much more open and smoother than what we are accustomed to.
Competitive lap times and short 13-lap races also means the track is not conductive to overtaking, so the major focus will be on qualifying up the front.
History lesson: This year is the 21st time the Supercars have competed at Albert Park since the first Melbourne Grand Prix in 1996.
What makes this track unique: It’s very fast with long straights and big braking zones.
Grip levels: Low, although the track does evolve as the racing line is swept clean of debris and more rubber goes down.
Tyre degradation: Very high, due to the length of the corners and the load put on the tyres. This weekend also marks the first time the category will race on the super soft compound.
Run-off: More than your typical street circuit, with added room and larger gravel traps.
Safety cars: Typically, one each weekend and it usually falls during the first race.
Watch out for: The later session times. Qualifying and races are quite late and will throw a different track condition to what we are used to.
Did you know: The trackside fencing, pedestrian overpasses, grandstands and other infrastructure is erected three months prior to the grand prix weekend and removed within six weeks after the event.
Don’t forget: This year is the fifth year in a row that the Supercars Challenge has featured a four-race format, however this year is different. For the first time, there will be separate qualifying sessions to determine the grid of each race.
FROM THE DRIVERS
David Reynolds – #9 Erebus Penrite Racing
“Our objective this weekend will be to qualify up the front and stay away from the carnage. I like the new qualifying format, I think it’s really cool; anytime drivers get new sets of tyres we feel good about life. It is a really good chance for everyone to try different things in each qualifying session. You never get four sets of tyres and four different qualifying sessions so it’s actually really cool.
“It’s a difficult track to pass around, but you can get passed people if you have a better car. There are opportunities but it’s sometimes hard to get it done; if you get a good run out of T2 you can pass into T3, or onto the back straight, then the quick chicane, so there’s a few opportunities that you can set up if you’ve got a good car.
“Notoriously this track is hard on the tyre and it’s the first time running the new super soft so it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out over the race. I think there will be a few differences to the old tyre but then I’m not sure, so I guess that’s why it will be interesting, as nobody knows how they will go. Tasmania is another super soft round so it’s a like for like and will be good to go to the next Championship round with a better understanding of the new tyre.”
Dale Wood – #99 Erebus GB Galvanizing Racing
“It will be cool to get a proper taste on the new super soft tyre, and it’s an interesting qualifying format – effectively you will be doing a one-lap flyer in each of those qualifying sessions, it’s about all you will be able to achieve so I think that’s going to be exciting.
“I think this will really change the grid up, every race is a fresh start; of those four sessions, there will be people that really get it right and there will be some that don’t. Qualifying is really important, for myself it is something we really need to work on so it’s not a bad opportunity to run on four sets of green super softs. I think that opportunity is always good and a great chance to understand the tyre. It will be a worry if your first qualifying run wasn’t great and you felt you had a lot of work to do as the schedule doesn’t allow much time to make changes but it is what it is and if you get it right it is rewarding.
“Our category is so tight and competitive that it makes for really close racing. We can hope that people will start to fall off from tyre life and you will be able to do some overtaking but they are only 13 lap races and the tyre won’t deteriorate that much over the course of the race. Whether it’s for points or not though, when the lights go out everyone wants to be on the top step of the podium.”