When Supercars last raced at night

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 02/08/2018
  • By Mitchell Adam

Supercars' last night races, in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and '11, marked the start of two significant partnerships within the championship.

The high-tech Yas Marina Circuit – opened in 2009 – was the venue each time, launching both seasons rather than the otherwise-standard Adelaide 500.

It hosted three Supercars events in total, the two events under lights followed by another run in the daylight in 2012 supporting that November's Formula 1 Grand Prix.

From seven races in Abu Dhabi, Jamie Whincup took six victories and James Courtney the other, including early strikes after switching to Holdens.

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2010 - Triple Eight's rivals see red

News that Triple Eight, and star drivers Whincup and Craig Lowndes, would switch from Ford to Holden for 2010 was big, and divisive among Supercars fans.

Roland Dane's outfit had become the standard-bearer in the preceding years, Whincup and Lowndes taking a Bathurst hat-trick across 2006-08, and Whincup his first two titles in '08 and '09.

Any suggestions a move from FG Falcons to VE Commodores would put it on the back foot, though, were unfounded as the season got underway at the new venue.

Polesitter Whincup led Lowndes home in a TeamVodafone one-two in the opener, then doubled up in the second race.

“The car was bullet-proof, and we were sort-of in control from the start,” Whincup said at the time.

“I am almost in shock from what has panned out this weekend.

"Having a brand-new car, a brand-new circuit and to almost have a perfect weekend, well that’s good enough. It is just an amazing feeling.”

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Dane told Motorsport eNews: "For me, this is an achievement that ranks right up there with winning Bathurst, to be honest, in terms of industry recognition."

That switch to Holden has netted six drivers' titles, seven teams' crowns and three Bathurst wins since 2010.

Elsewhere that year, Rod Nash had taken his Racing Entitlements Contract to what was then Ford Performance Racing, for Paul Dumbrell to drive a Bottle-O Falcon.

The outfit morphed from FPR to Prodrive Racing Australia and Tickford Racing since, with Nash now a co-owner.

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2011 - Courtney starts walking

Whincup did not finish 2010 with a third Supercars title, ultimately beaten in dramatic circumstances by Courtney at Homebush.

The Dick Johnson Racing driver shaded Whincup using a Triple Eight-built Falcon, having started his 2010 with fourth and a sixth in a Jim Beam-less FG in Abu Dhabi.

Twelve months later, Courtney had left DJR - taking the prized #1 with him to the Holden Racing Team - opening his account in Abu Dhabi.

Whincup started the campaign with a comfortable victory, while Courtney started 20th and finished four laps down in 26th after picking up damage early.

He started fifth in the second race, then pitted during both of the Safety Car periods, seizing track position and having enough fuel in the tank to bring it home.

Courtney did, though, have to fight off Jason Bright on a similar strategy in a fierce scrap.

Brad Jones Racing driver Bright snatched the lead for a single lap with four to go but had to settle for second, with Whincup third.

The HRT became Walkinshaw Racing last year - when Triple Eight scored the factory Holden backing - and Walkinshaw Andretti United this season, with Courtney now in his eighth year in a Clayton Commodore.

"It was my first weekend with HRT, the day before was a shocker," Courtney recalled recently.

"It was a mad event and that race was really, really tricky and we played a huge gamble with strategy.

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"I had to save fuel like crazy towards the end and managed to hold off Brighty to win it.

"It was was a pretty special weekend, being that it was my first weekend with HRT and I was the current champion.

"To get that win really cemented the decision of changing teams."

The Abu Dhabi event was also the first as a standalone Supercars outfit for Tekno Autosports.

Jonathon Webb ran a third DJR Falcon in his rookie 2010 campaign, but broke away to run the Falcon independently in '11.

A switch to Triple Eight Commodores followed in 2012, with Tekno now fielding '18's top rookie Jack Le Brocq.

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