Five things to watch at the Clipsal 500

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 01/03/2017
  • By Lewis Isaacs

The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship for 2017 begins tomorrow around the streets of Adelaide.

After a long off-season and plenty of work being done behind the scenes, the race for this year's crown is set to be intense from the start.

Here's what to keep an eye on this weekend.

 

The street fighters

There’s something about street circuits and certain drivers that just click.

The case in point with the Clipsal 500 is James Courtney, who has done a fair chunk of his recent winning on street circuits.

Likewise, drivers like Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Shane van Gisbergen, Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert have impressive records at tracks like Adelaide.

While the Next Generation era of Supercars has been dominated by two squads, Triple Eight Race Engineering and Prodrive Racing Australia, in bad news for Ford fans, Holden has won every race in Adelaide since 2013.

That’s not something Winterbottom and Mostert will be proud of and after an engineering reshuffle at Prodrive, the Blue Oval pair have a lot to prove in this street fight.

 

Sleeping giants

On track

The Clipsal 500 will mark the first chance to see whether the Shell V-Power Racing Team has made the kind of off-season strides that could propel into winning its first race in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

While new Competition Director Ludo Lacroix has not been given a lot of time to make an immediate impact on the technical aspects of the car, a late season test in 2016, a trouble-free pre-season and the recruitment of Scott McLaughlin has raised expectations on the outfit.

Last year both Scott Pye and Fabian Coulthard impressed by nabbing a pole position each at the track, so there is already form to build on.

If the team has taken the step forward many are predicting, Penske's Supercars victory duck could be broken this weekend.

 

Fifth time lucky?

Michael Caruso of the Nissan Motorsport during the Clipsal 500,  at the Adelaide Street Circuit, Adelaide, South Australia, March 06, 2016.

This season marks the fifth one for Nissan Motorsport and its Altima and until Michael Caruso finished second in last year’s rain-soaked Sunday race, the team had yet to secure a podium in Adelaide.

The development of the car has been a lot slower than most would have hoped for, but a breakthrough win for Caruso at Darwin last year was another promising sign for the team.

As one of two factory teams on the grid, expectations are high on Nissan Motorsport, particularly after Rick Kelly was fastest at the pre-season test at Sydney Motorsport Park.

The Clipsal 500 will be the perfect chance to see how far the team has come. Because five seasons is a long-time to wait.

 

First timers

On track

The Clipsal 500 is a renowned car-breaker, but it’s also one of the biggest physical tests for the drivers.

Rick Kelly famously fainted in his car on debut, while a host of others have battled the hot temperatures and intense concentration required that makes this event a massive challenge.

Newcomer Simona De Silvestro will face a major test in her new career at the track, but arrives after racing some of the world’s fastest open-wheel cars previously.

Fellow rookie, Alex Rullo, steps up from the Dunlop Super2 Series and at only 16 years old will become the youngest ever race starter in the series.

The race will be the biggest test of the young driver’s career and finishing a race in the tough conditions will be a major achievement for the youngster.

 

Turn 8

David Reynolds of Erebus Motorsport V8 during the Clipsal 500,  at the Adelaide Street Circuit, Adelaide, South Australia, March 04, 2016.

It’s the most feared corner on the calendar due to its high-speed nature and unforgiving concrete walls.

While plenty of big name drivers have come unstuck at the track, 2017’s new tyres and how teams manage the grip will make the fabled turn an even scarier prospect.

Last year James Courtney went all out on the final lap of race two through Turn 8 to ensure his win in one of the boldest moves you’re likely to see a leader pull.

Even he would admit he was pretty lucky.

Who will come unstuck this year?

 

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