Sandown qualifying format explained

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 15/09/2018
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

The RABBLE.club Sandown 500’s unique format means more than just one hot lap will be required to take AMROR ALL Pole Position.

Saturday’s Supercars track action will begin with a final 15-minute practice session at 10:10am local time, before the three-part qualifying gets underway.

From 11:40am, a regular, 20-minute qualifying session will take place, with times setting the grid for the first of two ARMOR ALL Race for the Grid sprints.

All drivers are permitted to take part in the qualifying session, although history suggests it’s highly unlikely to see any co-drivers on track.

The co-drivers get their chance in Race for the Grid 1, starting at 1:40pm and held over 20 laps.

Results from Race for the Grid 1 are used to determine the starting order for Race for the Grid 2 at 4:15pm, when the primary drivers take the wheel.

The results of that 20-lap sprint then set the grid for Sunday’s 161-lap RABBLE.club Sandown 500.

In an unchanged format from recent years, no points are awarded for the qualifying sprints, and they are not technically counted as races in the official stats.

Last year, David Reynolds topped the Saturday qualifying session, before co-driver Luke Youlden won Race for the Grid 1.

Cameron Waters went on to win Race for the Grid 2, before combining with Richie Stanaway to win the 500 on Sunday.

Waters and Stanaway were just the third polesitters in 31 years to win the Sandown enduro – a feat also achieved by Craig Lowndes/Greg Murphy in 1996 and Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell in 2014.

Challenging conditions forecast

Wet weather will likely add to the drama for primary and co-drivers alike, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting a 90 percent chance of rain in Melbourne during the day.

Drivers noted after Friday practice that the combination of rain and the Sandown circuit could be particularly tricky, following pre-event work on the surface.

Patching undertaken before the event created an unusually high grip level in the dry on Friday – a phenomenon that had less impact as the day progressed.

“We don't know what this surface will be like with rain on it,” said noted rain master Shane van Gisbergen, who is paired with Supercars rookie Earl Bamber.

“It's basically just rubber, which is slippery when wet. So tomorrow might be a challenge.

“[But] if it's raining we'll put some wets on and deal with it.”

Red Bull Holden Racing Team stablemate Jamie Whincup suggested officials may have to err on the side of caution if conditions are bad.

“We've got to be a little bit careful,” he said, noting the difficulties Supercars faced at Pukekohe last year after pre-event efforts to resurface the back straight.

“The sensible thing will be to throw the Safety Car out early if it's wet and see what the conditions are like.”

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