Race 28 2023 Repco Supercars Championship - Vailo 500 For the second year succession, the…
2017 VIRGIN AUSTRALIA SUPERCARS FINALE – NEWCASTLE
The full story can be read in issue #25 Velocity Motorsport Magazine
JAMIE WHINCUP headed into the final round of the 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship with a comfortable 30 points lead over Scott McLaughlin. The endurance races had been unkind to the DJRTP driver. Bathurst had hit him particularly hard. While both McLaughlin and Whincup suffered engine problems, it was the good fortune for Whincup that he was able to get the car to the pits. McLaughlin’s misfortune was that Alexandre Premat, who was behind the wheel at the time, was left stranded when the car stopped on the uphill section. Another 500 metres and he could have coasted back to the pits.
Whincup was not unfamiliar with his position and held a sufficient points gap to be able to dictate the race weekend, save for any unforeseen dramas. For McLaughlin, the game plan was simple. Win two races and hope that it would enough to overhaul the Red Bull driver.
The final round moved north of Sydney to a new circuit around the streets of the Newcastle headland and waterfront. The narrow, undulating circuit was housed within a quite compact precinct and was not unlike the famous Monaco circuit. The similarities not coincidence according to the Supercars Australia hierarchy.
The circuit was rated ‘high risk’ prior to the event, with a narrow track, elevation changes, limited run-off and sweeping bends, with 90 degree corners.
First practice saw a number of cars run wide in the hairpin or take to the escape road, especially at turn 1, where exit speed was crucial for a fast run up the hill. A number of drivers received fines for ignoring yellow flags after Mark Winterbottom had used the turn 1 detour in practice. Drivers later admitted that the track was very different to the simulations they had used in the lead-up.
Jamie Whincup was surprised by the difference. “The track’s a fair bit different to what we expected,” He said. “I thought that there might be a bit more flow, but it is actually quite stop-start. It’s also bumpier than we had anticipated as well.”
“ You drive around in a road car and its fine, you get in a Supercar that’s a couple of inches off the ground and she’s rough.”
Shane vanGisbergen also held concerns about the opportunity to pass around the circuit. “What a crazy track”, he said. “It is really cool, but it will all come down to qualifying. It’s going to be hard work, 250km with zero passing spots, which is average.”
Scott McLaughlin took the early initiative, with the fastest time at the end of the first day. He had his own unique insights into the circuit. “Far out… It’s full on”, he exclaimed. “That was just..You know.. Oh man.. I’m buzzing! It’s so technical, you have to sacrifice one corner for the next to help you regain in 3 corners time. It’s really bumpy in places. It’s everything a driver wants and it’s great to be here.”
Scott McLaughlin took to the track to set a benchmark time, only to be impeded at the hairpin by Tim Blanchard. The DJRTP car soon returned to the pits for another crack at a fast time. Jamie Whincup had some issues in the Red Bull and took to the escape road at the top of the hill when the car squirmed under brakes. David Reynolds admitted to overdriving the car in his first run and also retreated to the pits for fresh rubber and a new approach in the closing moments……….
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