‘The Bend’ racetrack tests V8 Supercars drivers at OTR Supersprint

A brand new circuit built in the South Australia ,'The Bend' racetrack tested all V8 Supercars drivers during the OTR Supersprint this weekend

A brand new circuit built in the South Australia,’The Bend’ racetrack has tested all V8 Supercars drivers during the OTR Supersprint this weekend. Races 22 and 23 of the series has seen different outcomes for drivers at the top of the table – as well as some smart strategy and use of pitstops.

‘The Bend’ racetrack tests V8 Supercars drivers at OTR Supersprint

Across the 2018 season, the benefits of the undercut during early sectors of the races has given drivers more benefits than losses. And while fuel loads of 120 litres are regulated, it didn’t stop the Red Bull Holden Racing team from securing wins on both Saturday and Sunday.

The results have seen a huge gain made by Kiwi driver Shane van Gisbergen. He has taken a ‘big chomp’ out of the 2018 Virgin Australia V8 Supercars championship. He now leads Scott McLaughlin by 19 points – heading into the Enduro Rounds.

The secret to attending any new racetrack, is data. How quickly a team like Red Bull Holden Racing or Nissan Motorsport can ‘come to grips with the circuit’ can prove how well they finish the weekend. So for the championship leader McLaughlin, when arriving at the new track on Thursday, the question was how fast they could adapt to the tyres and set-up?

In fact, the ZB Holden adjusted fastest, well ahead of the Ford Falcon FG X; and just above the Nissan Altima. Each manufacturer had different successes; DJR Team Penske failed badly, while the champion team at 888 Engineering had all three of their cars on-song.

The weekend opened with a win to the New Zealand driver Shane van Gisbergen, as he used a familiarity from another category, to his personal advantage.

Jamie Whincup was sublime as usual, as he secured the win on Sunday. Their third driver – the retiring Craig Lowndes – drove his Autobarn Racing car better on Sunday too, proving that the collection of data was utilized best at Red Bull. Team manager Mark Dutton explained to FoxSports how the team had progressed;

“We’re a three car team, so everyone is learning off each other.”

“We share everything, and a new track; let alone any track, we love coming to new circuits and having the results go in our favour. Everyone has an input – from Mario the chef, to the mechanics, so yes it’s been good.”

Dutton and the team had functioned better than the other multi-car operations. Nissan [a four car team] would be very pleased, as Rick Kelly secured another podium finish Saturday, and Michael Caruso showed pace Sunday. The developing information and strategies all played their part.

David Reynolds of Erebus Penrite Racing finished third on Sunday, which maintained his high placing on the ladder. The top five drivers have extended a reach over the chasers, heading into the Enduro rounds where points collection is becoming vital to championship opportunities.

Final ‘Sprint’ before the Longer Distance Races begin

Each of the teams will reflect on the outcomes this weekend. Race winner Jamie Whincup was ecstatic that his team had delivered to him a rocket. A sentiment shared by new series leader van Gisbergen.

“I saw the purple board [for the championship leader] got a bit excited, but it’s a long way to go. We need to keep our heads down. Credit to the team for giving us some rockets this weekend,” was his comment when asked what he put the strong results down to.

Now, as cars leave The Bend track after the OTR Supersprint round is wrapped up, the chassis’s will be prepared for longer distance races. It means that tyre selection changes from a choice of soft, medium or hard Dunlop tyres, to being a more familiar longer wearing rubber.

It all changes when the trucks arrive at Sandown International Motor Raceway, Melbourne, with the 500-kilometer race delivering a whole new type of racing. Away from the degradation of soft-Sprint tyres, to the longer driving sessions and critical driver changes of the Enduro (endurance) rounds. It also means that teams arrive with solid data, which can be translated into car set-ups to help all teams start the next stage of the championship with more confidence.

The difficulty that teams had at this brand new The Bend race track, was dirt on the track (from cars leaving the circuit and the wind), camber and suspension changes. Away from the hard cornering of Townsville and Darwin, to high-speed corners meant the wheel alignment and camber were the unknown factor.

Red Bull Holden Racing aced all of those tests. Two pole positions and two race wins. A sum total that sends Shane van Gisbergen into a series lead for the first time since Adelaide.

New track brings positives as well as some Negatives

Track designers had seen the fruits of their labours at The Bend this weekend. The development in South Australia is home to multiple categories, from Kart Racing, to Offroad experiences. But the V8 Supercars and support classes found both positives as well as negatives when they arrived.

Grip was the key issue. Once cars began to lay down some rubber, approaches to corners and the adjustments to set-up caused even the six-time champions, Jamie Whincup to spin-out. His was a close call, but it caught more drivers out right up until that same driver took the chequered flag on Sunday afternoon.

The Bend will develop further no doubt, and next year teams and tyre manufacturers can return with more information. But it provided for some excitement, and track-positional changes for drivers like Garth Tander, James Courtney and Chaz Mostert.

At the Sandown International Motor Raceway in two weeks time, fans can look forward to both the high speed, door-to-door racing that V8 Supercars is famous for, as well as the longer distance race strategies and driver qualities being at the fore.

Higher points are on offer too, which could also make for some more changes to the title standings, in the race for the 2018 Supercars crown.

Next stop: RABBLE.club Sandown 500 – Sunday September 16. Melbourne, VIC

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