Andrew Jones, the most successful Dunlop Series driver at Winton Raceway, says qualifying will be the most important factor in this weekend’s Winton 360.
The Brad Jones Racing pilot is the only driver to have won two rounds at Winton back-to-back in 2003 and 2004 and holds the current qualifying and race lap record set in ‘04.
He’s also tied with Paul Dumbrell for the second highest number of race wins at the venue with three – topped only by Owen Kelly who has four.
For the first time in 2013, Dunlop Series qualifying will be held over two 20-minute sessions instead of a single 30-minute session, was a decision made to ensure all drivers have a level opportunity on a short, winding track given the large number of entrants.
Jones feels the change in qualifying format will put more importance on getting the most out of the car early in the weekend and ensuring a spot in the top half of the field for qualifying.
“V8 Supercars have tweaked the schedule and split qualifying to upper and lower 50 percent and it puts more emphasis on Friday,” Jones said.
“Some guys have better tyre banks than others and that could easily put them in the top 50 percent so we’ll need to be on our game early.”
With 34 cars set to take part this weekend, the Albury resident is conscious of the role qualifying will play.
“Qualifying will be important for a few reasons,” he said.
“We’ve got short races to start – with safety cars, we’re only getting short sprints within races – so it can be a tough job to move forward.”
Jones’ season qualifying average to date is 11.5 with a best result of eighth and the BJR driver is aware of this weakness.
“Qualifying has really been my Achilles’ heels this year,” he said.
“We’ve had really good race speed but we’re struggling to make the most of green tyres in qualifying.
“We feel that we know what the issue is but BJR’s priority is our main game cars and developing the Dunlop Series cars takes a backseat behind them.”
Jones heads into his home round in fourth in the Championship with a 296 deficit to leader Dale Wood and 77 points behind third placed Daniel Gaunt.
While he hasn’t written his chances off, 2004 Champion Jones recognises shortcomings in his 2013 campaign have reduced the odds of a second Dunlop Series title.
“Nothing’s impossible and I don’t want to say we’re out of contention but we need to be doing a better job and bank some race wins in order to have a real chance,” he explained.
“Hopefully this weekend we can keep our race momentum going and move towards race wins. Realistically we need to be inside the top 10 in qualifying and preferably higher in the ten than we have been.”
Championship leader Wood is hoping to shake the ‘Mr Consistency’ title this weekend and claim his first round win of the year to extend his 128 point margin over second placed Ash Walsh.