Supercars heads to its fastest circuit, having opened 2023 at its slowest — and drivers and teams are wary of the challenge.
The Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint will see Supercars tackle the 5.278km Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit.
The Albert Park circuit design was overhauled ahead of the 2022 event, with a number of corners reprofiled.
Critically, the Turn 9/10 chicane was removed, creating a long, sweeping back straight.
The fastest lap of the weekend — set by Shane van Gisbergen in Practice 2 — had an average speed of 181.31km/h.
It saw Albert Park edge Mount Panorama as the fastest circuit in Supercars; Tasmania, Sandown, Perth and Tailem Bend are the only other circuits with an average speed greater than 100mph.
It’s a stark contrast to Newcastle, which at 134km/h, has the slowest average speed of any circuit on the 2023 calendar.
The quickest lap of the Thrifty Newcastle 500 weekend was clocked at an average speed of 133.91km/h — which is a whopping 46km/h slower than Albert Park.
Albert Park laps times were eight seconds faster
The format in Melbourne is also fast, with drivers to qualify in four short ARMOR ALL Qualifying sessions and four sprint races.
Adding to the intrigue is that drivers will have to use Dunlop’s Hard and Super Soft tyres in all four races.
Chaz Mostert suggested lessons learned at the pre-season Sydney test could prove beneficial in getting up to speed with the new cars in Melbourne.
“I don’t know if your Newcastle car will work too crazy at the Grand Prix,” Chaz Mostert told Supercars.com.
“You draw a lot of parallels to how you went at SMP on the test day, and the things you learned there.
“They’re very similar tracks, just not the same grip level.
“I’m excited to see if we can draw a parallel to SMP testing was like, that will build more confidence with the car going forward.”
When asked if there’s anything he can carry over into the Grand Prix, Andre Heimgartner added: “A little bit… but it’s very, very different, it’s SMP style.
“We’ll have to wait and see. We struggled there a bit last year, we had some issues with the car and didn’t have much pace.
“This year we’ll be trying to maximise what we have… we’ll see how we go.”
Triple Eight Team Manager Mark Dutton suggested teams will have learned some of the intricacies of the new cars in Newcastle.
“[Albert Park is] a completely different track, but you’re starting to learn the sensitivities of the car,” Dutton said.
“What does what, what’s your go-to tool, what’s going to affect the cars the most.
“Here you’re trying to improve on big kerbs, landing and bouncing at a rough circuit, where at the Grand Prix, it’ll be different.
“You still need to know your toolbox, what you have to work with. That information will carry over."
The 2023 Repco Supercars Championship will resume at the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint on March 30-April 2.
Fastest Supercars circuits (on 2023 calendar)