Hino Hot Track: Surfers with Winterbottom

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 18/10/2018
  • By Supercars.com

The streets of Surfers Paradise host Supercars and the final leg of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup this weekend.

Visited by teams and drivers since 1994 and part of the championship since 2002, the beachside street circuit offers a unique challenge.

What was a 4.5km layout was trimmed to 2.96km in 2010, highlighted by the iconic, high-speed chicane sequence on the back straight.

A three-time race winner, Bottle-O Racing driver Mark Winterbottom is your Hino Hot Track guide for the Vodafone Gold Coast 600 venue.

The driving challenge

Surviving it is quite tough, it's risk-versus-reward around the Gold Coast track.

In qualifying you have to go max-attack and put it all out there to try and get pole position because track position's obviously so important.

It's about doing a lap, surviving, putting it all on the table.

And then the race is about attacking at the right times and surviving when you need to.

It sort of plays out in two parts, but you need to do both right to get the win – picking your time to attack, that's probably the key.

When you're out there, the track feels quite narrow, especially in the chicanes because you're bouncing off them at high speeds.

People probably don't realise how quick you're going when you bounce off those chicanes, it's a lot quicker than what it probably looks on TV.

That's when it really starts to narrow off, when you've got two wheels in the air, trying to control the car literally with the outside wheel as it's coming down.

All street circuits feel like they're quite narrow but those chicanes definitely feel like they're twice as narrow as they probably are; because of the speed and because you're on two wheels, the fences come up pretty quickly.

With the change to the track in 2010, you're coming at a section like that back chicane quick and now you're basically doing it one-and-a-half times more across the same race distance.

Not only are you hitting it at speed, you're hitting it more times, that's the high-risk – even at Turn 1, you're hitting it more often because each lap is shorter.

They're definitely the high-risk parts but throw in Turn 11 at the end of the back straight, that's probably the other tricky corner, and one that I really like.

It's a blind corner, you've got to get as close as you can to the inside wall, but if you bump it, you end up in the outside fence and as a road block, which we see every year.

You come from a slight kink, you're getting in there pretty hot and braking off camber, turning in, trying to nick the mirror on the inside wall as you turn in – it gets your attention!

It's one that you're really on the threshold under brakes, if you slightly lock a front tyre you're in the fence.

There's a very high risk but it can make-or-break a lap.

The engineering challenge

For me, braking confidence is a big part when we're thinking about the car set-up.

When there's walls around, if you can't stop and place the car where you want it for a corner, you're not going to make the apex and you're not going to get the corner right.

So the first rule of thumb for me is to be able to brake the car, put it into the position under brakes you need it to be.

And from there you start finessing it with how it rides the kerbs, turns, the tyre life, throttle power-down, all of that sort of stuff.

But the number one priority at the Gold Coast is always, for me, braking.

If it doesn't brake properly and you're slightly wide, those concrete walls become quite intimidating.

Tyre life is quite important; especially now that we've gone to the super-soft tyre, it's more crucial than ever.

Out of Turn 4, you really notice the loaded tyre will go first and when you lose rear tyre grip, the car starts to wobble under brakes.

You've got to deal with that, or if you lose front-tyre life, you start getting front locking.

It's not only tyre life on the exit of the corner, it also contributes to the entry under brakes.

You have all of that stuff in your head, it can be quite crucial, tyre life, and we do see quite long stints at the Gold Coast.

Good tyre life can ultimately win or lose you a race.

My Gold Coast memories

We've had some good ones on the Gold Coast over the years.

I think back to the win in 2011 with Richard Lyons, when we ran down Jamie Whincup, passed him and drove away. That was a really cool race.

In 2009 (pictured), I had glandular fever there, I was really struggling.

I had Phil Keed engineering the car and we put it on pole and won two of the four races, that was a really cool weekend.

We've got a few of the surfboards at home, they're really iconic, you have to earn those ones.

There's never an easy, straightforward race on the Gold Coast.

Winterbottom last added to his surfboard collection in 2013, with Steven Richards

It's one of those ones that always throws something at you and it's always difficult.

But when you get it, it's always among your more-special ones. That 2009 one with Phil, that was a good win.

I'm not really a big fan of trophies – I know it sounds silly, but you always want the result and take the win and that's awesome, the trophy is what it is.

The surfboards, though, they're really cool.

They give you the fins, you can actually go – if you want to – and take it out to the beach on Monday morning and catch a wave.

I'm not very sentimental about trophies but that is one that you'd never give away and you'd always want to keep.

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