Chaz Mostert will be out not only to retain his series lead, but also overturn a luckless run in milestone races.
The Friday race at the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint will be Mostert’s 300th Supercars Championship race start.
The Walkinshaw Andretti United Ford driver will become the 30th driver to start 300 races.
Mostert won two races at Albert Park in 2022, and also won a race and the Larry Perkins Trophy in 2019.
The 30-year-old is one of Supercars’ leading drivers, but he has yet to signal a milestone race with a victory.
He came close in his 250th race in 2021 when he raced to third in Townsville.
Race 200 was the 2019 Bathurst 1000, where Mostert infamously clashed with Tickford Racing teammate Cam Waters at The Chase.
Race 150 came at Albert Park in 2018 — the first ever points round at the Grand Prix — but Mostert fell to 10th from sixth in a race won by Scott Pye.
Race 100 — at Winton in 2016 — was perhaps most frustrating, with Mostert missing out after starting from pole position.
That day, Mostert clashed with James Courtney, cut a tyre and finished 20th.
In 2014, race 50 came at Queensland Raceway — where he won his first race as a rookie in 2013 — and he raced from 14th to 10th.
Scoring big in race No. 300 has proven a barrier for all active drivers bar Mark Winterbottom, who won at Winton in his 300th start.
Pye was the most recent driver to join the ‘300 club’ at The Bend Motorsport Park last year, and finished 12th.
Courtney’s 300th, at Winton in 2015, featured an intra-team clash with Holden Racing Team teammate Garth Tander.
Earlier that season, Will Davison didn’t even get to start his 300th race when his Erebus Mercedes-AMG picked up a problem on the warm-up lap in Adelaide.
David Reynolds finished sixth in his 300th race, in Perth in 2019, with Tim Slade 17th at Pukekohe in his 300th a year earlier.
Shane van Gisbergen’s 300th start came on home soil in 2016 — his first championship year — but he was turned around by teammate Jamie Whincup.
Van Gisbergen recovered to third in the race, which was won by Winterbottom — that race remains Winterbottom’s most recent victory.
Given he has the orange numbers on his Mobil 1 Optus Ford Mustang — which signifies the championship lead — Mostert heads into his milestone weekend under more pressure than most.
That comes alongside a short and sharp Albert Park format, with the grids for all four sprint races set by quick-fire qualifying sessions — a stark contrast to Newcastle.
“With any other Supercars round, we get a little bit longer practice,” Mostert told Supercars.com.
“At the Grand Prix, the track distance is so long, and the qualifyings are so short, that you have have one opportunity on one tyre to do a time.
“It’s super cutthroat, and it all comes down to your qualifying position.
“One mistake on that lap — which we’ve seen in years gone past — you’re 23rd, 24th on the grid even though you’ve got the car speed to be inside the top five.
“I’m up for the challenge, I know the team is as well. We have to see what the form guide is like after Grand Prix.
“It’s going to be exciting to watch, no matter what.”
The 2023 Repco Supercars Championship will resume at the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint on March 30-April 2.
Cars will hit the track at Albert Park on Thursday for two practice sessions, two qualifying sessions and Race 3.