Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell are the defending Sandown Champions, however with new engineer David Cauchi running the #1 Red Bull Commodore this year, he will be gunning for his first Sandown 500 race win.
The relationship between driver and engineer has been under some scrutiny this year, and Cauchi admits the season has been "up and down" in terms of results.
"We ended up a long way back in the Championship early on and we were struggling for race pace," he told v8supercars.com.au.
"Everyone at RBRA has worked hard to get our race pace back and JW and I have started to understand each other a lot better as the season has gone on. We are not at the level we want to be yet, but I feel we are progressing well and I am really enjoying working with Jamie.
"The endurance races will be another new challenge for us, but I am looking forward to that."
Cauchi previewed the Wilson Security Sandown 500 for v8supercars.com.au.
V8supercars.com.au: What are the main characteristics of the circuit?
Cauchi: "You get it all at Sandown. The kerbs are aggressive and you have to use them to go quick so you will see cars up on two wheels through Turns 2 and 3.
"You want your engine builder to pack as many horses as possible into your engine for the long haul down the back straight. Our engine supplier, KRE, is always good at doing that!
"At the end of the straight you get on the brakes and turn the car in at 230km/h. That's seriously fast so you need good high speed stability.
"Then you get to Turn 9, which is the slowest corner on the track - second gear at around 75km/h. The exit of the last corner is bumpy so that can upset your drive onto the front straight.
"So, as I said, you get it all - big kerbs, high speed, big stops and bumps. It all makes for a very interesting engineering challenge."
How will the weekend's format affect setup and strategy?
"We start the weekend with four 40-minute practice sessions. Two of those sessions are dedicated to co-drivers, so PD will get plenty of track time and help us tune the car in on Friday.
"JW will qualify the car in a 20-minute session on Saturday, but this doesn't determine the grid for Sunday.
"This is the only race of the year where we have qualifying races, so both PD and JW will have a 20-lap sprint race on Saturday to determine where we start for Sunday's 500km race. The qualifying races are not worth any points so you don't want to be too aggressive with your approach, but on the other hand you want a strong starting position for Sunday.
"Once you get to Sunday you have to reset your brain to play the long game and so do your two drivers. We don't have a compulsory number of pit stops this year, so you will see cars on three and four stop strategies depending on fuel consumption and when we see a safety car. We have not seen too many safety cars this year, particularly on Sunday, but 500km is a long way to go without a safety car.
"There is also no minimum fuel drop like we see in our Super Sprint Sunday races, so teams and drivers will be managing fuel consumption throughout the race, which is something we have not had to do much of this year."
What is the tyre allocation and what sort of degradation are you expecting? How will this impact setup and strategy, particularly in the longer Sunday race?
"For practice and warm up we have four sets of hard Dunlop tyres to use. With the 40-minute practice sessions we will need all of those.
"We have six sets of hard Dunlop tyres to use during qualifying and all races. Sandown is not particularly hard on tyres, but you need a car that is easy on your rear tyres as you will need to go the distance of a full tank on them.
"Overall strategy will be based more around fuel consumption as opposed to tyre degradation."
What aspects of the circuit are you expecting to suit your car and what do you have to be mindful of?
"We have improved our cars over kerbs and the way it handles bumps in general, which is definitely a good thing going to Sandown. Hopefully we can replicate some of the car speed we showed at Townsville.
"Our straight line handling should be a strength. Unfortunately for us I think we will see some other cars with good straight line performance as well.
"The field is so tight that you don't have to miss your setup by too much and you can find yourself outside the top 10 in qualifying which can then have a flow on effect to your Sunday race car setup and you can be faced with a long 500km with a not so speedy car."
What are you expecting to be the most important thing to do well this weekend?
"With Sandown being the first endurance race of the year it is going to be all about doing the simple things right and making the fewest mistakes. Qualifying up the front is important to get a clean start and not get caught up in traffic early on, but you certainly don't need to be on the front row to win the race. The drivers need to stay focused and keep the car straight throughout the day so it is in the best shape for the sprint home.
"Pit stops are always a factor in any endurance race. The engineer needs to make clear calls so the pit stop crew knows exactly what needs to be done and stay calm. Ultimately you need a fast car in that last stint to win the race, no amount of genius strategy can make up for a lack of race pace.
"Although you don't hear the word much these days because the standard of the entire V8 Supercar field is very high, reliability is paramount. To finish first, first you must finish. It's as simple as that, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong in a V8 supercar, so car preparation is critical."
What are the challenges from your point of view, now working with another driver?
"PD is very similar to JW in the car. He is cool and calm and just gets on with the driving. They both want the same things from the car so setup-wise I don't feel I will need to compromise for any driver. Once we flick the switch from CEO mode to driver mode, I don't see any great challenges from having PD around."
Jamie has said PD is more prepared than ever -are you confident you can throw him in the car against the main drivers, as well as the other co-drivers, and have a bit of freedom with strategy?
"Last year PD had not done much racing when he turned up to Sandown and still did a fantastic job. This year he has been racing in the Dunlop Series so without question he is as best prepared as he can be in terms of seat time in a V8 Supercar.
"If we can give him a good car I have every bit of confidence in PD to be fast and mix it with whatever driver he comes up against. When your co-driver is on the pace it opens up more strategy options. You can have them in the car for the start and you don't have to compromise your strategy to get them out of the car at the first possible chance, so it definitely gives you more flexibility come lap 54 as well. It certainly makes my job a lot easier having PD as our co-driver."
|Full name:||David Cauchi|
|Time with team:||Seventh season|
|Time in V8 Supercars:||Seventh season|
|Drivers engineered:||Jamie Whincup, Dean Fiore|
|Career highlights:||Triple pole at Tasmania 2014, Townsville race win 2014.|
|Best result at Sandown:||18th in 2013|
|Outside of racing:||Normally involves thinking about racing or watching some form of racing on TV.|