Hino Track Guide - Clipsal 500 Adelaide

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

Adelaide is known as the city of churches and as Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport and Nick Percat showed last year, when the heavens open, sometimes miracles do happen.

But as the season-opening round the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, the Adelaide Parklands Circuits presents one of the toughest challenges of the season.

Firstly, it’s brutal on the car, with the high kerbs and concrete walls bruising the dampers and panels lap-after-lap.

It’s also an endurance test for drivers, with the early season’s high temps multiplied inside the cockpit and in the track’s concrete canyon.

So what else do you need to win around Adelaide apart from some good luck and endurance?

Here’s a few pointers:

Tyres

On track

This weekend marks the first opportunity for teams to sample Dunlop’s new 2017-specification soft tyres.

The Adelaide circuit has traditionally been a low-degradation surface, but with tyres the great unknown going into the season, plenty of learning will be done on the fly.

Teams have a bank of two sets of soft tyres which they can use for Friday practice alongside a brand new set that must be handed back before qualifying.

Six sets are then used across Saturday and Sunday, so the challenge is making the most of the rubber while still understanding its secrets.

Fuel

With a 140-litre mandatory fuel drop during each race, calling pitstop strategy is crucial for success.

Last year Nick Percat won the rain shortened Sunday race by being the first driver to complete his fuel stops while those behind him were forced to make late stops or risk a 90 second post-race penalty.

That fuel drop guarantees a minimum of two fuel stops, and unless they’re made early, economy becomes less of a factor.

The race is also prone to Safety Car interruptions, forcing many of the best brains in the paddock into rolling the dice.

Power

Michael Caruso of the Nissan Motorsport during the Clipsal 500,  at the Adelaide Street Circuit, Adelaide, South Australia, March 04, 2016.

While the Clipsal 500 is one of the toughest tracks to race at, its stop and start layout doesn’t make it one where outright power plays a big part.

With a top speed of 251km/h and average of 146km/h, engineers and drivers have to find other ways to make the cars quick.

Suspension

The Clipsal 500 is a track with a constant reminder of basic physics.

What goes up must come down.

So as the cars fly over the kerbs, the weight of the 1,410-kilogram car (plus driver) is sent through the suspension.

At a track like this, tuning suspension becomes as important as making sure it survives the race.

Qualifying

Fabian Coulthard of Team DJR Penske during the Clipsal 500 2016

This year’s Clipsal 500 presents a new challenge for competitors, with a top-10 shootout for both Saturday and Sunday races.

The single lap efforts are some of the highest pressure moments in the category, making grid position crucial.

Craig Lowndes won the 1999 Clipsal 500 from the back of the grid, but since 2013 six of the 11 races have been won from pole.

Longer races

The traditional Clipsal 500 format is back in 2017, with the race split into two gruelling 250 kilometre encounters.

That opens up the strategy for engineers and drivers to work with, while fatigue is also likely to play a role as the weekend rolls on.

That’s not saved solely for drivers, as mechanics have been known to rebuild cars overnight thanks to the circuit’s punishing nature.

Crucial component

Race 28

There are plenty of important parts of a Supercar, but if history has been any indication there’s one in particular you don’t want to fail.

The drivers’ cool suit sends cooled water through a vest to manage their body temperatures inside a cabin that can exceed 70°C.

Without it, drivers have been forced to retire due to exhaustion or worse, crash as their concentration fails.

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