It's been a tight turn-around for the teams - exactly 3473km from Barbagallo Raceway across the Nullarbor to Winton Motor Raceway in country Victoria just 12 days later. A quick strip back, service, polish and teams pack the trucks again ready for Championship event number four.
Winton is tight, twisty, unpredictable and old school. This year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Winton hosting the Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercars Championship with 1985 being the first year of racing.
When you arrive at Winton you are greeted by hand-made signs that line the streets and fences of the entrance with personal welcomes by fans for their favourite drivers - and the occasional not so welcome to the not so favourite drivers. You also have that smell of campfire and super crisp cold country air. It's one of those circuits for genuine race fans that love race cars.
The old home versus away debate always becomes a conversation when we arrive at Winton. Nineteen out of 25 cars classify Winton as their 'home' track. However DJR (now DJR Team Penske) and Triple Eight have the most race wins with eight each, and both teams are based in Queensland!
Although in recent times 'home' teams have won the last five races and given the new testing rules in 2015 where only one independent test day can be done outside of a race meeting, the home versusaway debate may finally be dead.
Last year we saw incredibly fast times with Fabian Coulthard smashing the qualifying record by over two seconds after the track surface was treated by epoxy sealant. It was an exceptional set of circumstances and the times were set on soft tyres, so it isn't expected we will see as times as quick this year.
We are also running the SuperSprint format as per Perth and Tasmania so the Dunlop hard tyres will be used for the weekend's running until Sunday where one set of soft tyres are available for race 12.
The good news is an additional set of hard Dunlop tyres are available for Practice Friday, along with pre-marked tyres, which will give everyone a good form guide during practice and more importantly give teams genuine 'testing' time on decent rubber. The tyres have to be handed back at the end of Friday (so they will definitely be used).
Winton is known for its constantly changing track conditions, which is always a challenge for the drivers and engineers over the weekend to chase. The track is known for being so 'tight' yet the first sector is relatively flowing therefore drivers will often have to make a compromise on the car balance to suit both of the requirements. Some resurfacing has been done to turn 10 and 11 since last time out, which will create another surface change for drivers to deal with. Turn one at Winton is always exciting as it narrows into the first chicane and more often then not causes dramas resulting in someone being unhappy!
The form guide for Winton is a little tricky. Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom are the only repeat winners out of the last 10 races at Winton. Red Bull Racing Australia is the one that stand out to me, as they have really struggled in the last two years. Both Whincup and Lowndes have had poor qualifying results and Whincup's only managed to get two top 10 results in the last six races. It's very unusual that Red Bull returns to a circuit and struggle two years consistently.
Winterbottom is the man with the most pole positions (four) and has won a race the last two years in a row; last year Sunday's winning margin for Frosty was nearly 10 seconds. He also comes into this weekend in red-hot form after a stunning weekend at Perth with two race wins and a pole position.
- Can RBRA turn around their poor Winton form?
- Winterbottom will look to continue his qualifying streak at Winton
- Will Lowndes finally crack the history making tonne?