This weekend’s Winton 360 is seen by Erebus Motorsport V8 as a critical, last minute fine tuning opportunity for the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, set to begin at the following event, the Wilson Security Sandown 500, in September.
That means co-drivers are able to drive in Friday’s practice sessions at Winton – the first 30 minutes of Practice One requiring teams to run additional drivers – something hugely helpful for EMV8’s rookie Maro Engel.
Engel will be making his debut at Winton Raceway this weekend, ahead of the endurance events.
“Another new track for me, this one from what I have seen is an interesting proposition,” said the German.
“We will have the opportunity to put (co-driver) Steve Johnson in the car again for a test session on Friday, the feedback he has been supplying our team since being in the car has been invaluable.”
Recently at the SKYCITY Triple Crown, Engel came home in ninth, a personal best for the V8 Supercars rookie. And now he says the anticipation in the garage is growing as the long distance races draw closer.
“Everyone tells me how big the endurance races are and I can already begin to feel that nervous tension building.
“The boys tell me we are heading into bushranger country, so I hope I can steal some loot from some of those around me this weekend. ”
The work put in by the Erebus Motorsport V8 team in Australia and the AMG Customer Sports factory in Germany since the end of 2012 has begun to yield more consistent results.
The qualifying performances of Slade in particular have been a highlight of late and both Slade and Engel have recorded top 10 finishes for the season.
Slade, who recently turned 28, has found himself starting in the top 10 six of the last seven races, including an Erebus Motorsport V8 season high fourth placed qualifying for the last race at Queensland Raceway.
Slade finished the two races last year at Winton Raceway sixth and fifth respectively. However, the Heavy Haulage Australia Racing driver felt it would be tricky visiting the circuit Victorian teams call home.
"I think Winton is going to be fairly tough for us given that all of the Melbourne teams test there,” Slade said.
“We had that advantage at the last round at Queensland Raceway, the home test track has become more of an advantage with the new cars than it has been in the past.
"We haven't driven a Car of the Future at Winton whereas all of the Victorian based teams have.
"We have made some good progress in the last few rounds, we've had good qualifying speed and good race pace in the last race at QR, so I'm confident that we've taken a step in the right direction as far as race setup goes. Hopefully we can carry across what we learnt from Ipswich into Winton."
While third EMV8 driver Lee Holdsworth has had a difficult run over the last few races in his IRWIN Tools machine, he is positive about the weekend ahead.
"I'm feeling really good heading into Winton, it is a track that I know well – it was my test track for eight or nine years, so know it like the back of my hand," Holdsworth said.
"We had a good result there last year and I'm hoping we can get the IRWIN car right in the mix this weekend.
"It will be great for our engines to have some cooler conditions, the boys have been working really hard at that.
"If we can improve in qualifying, I'm sure we can be fighting for top 10 and even top five finishes.
"It is an incredibly technical track, it's tough on tyres and always produces a great deal of action for the crowd, so it should be exciting."