ADELAIDE, South Australia, Australia — Welcome to the first of Race Chaser Online’s 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race previews! Before each Supercars race weekend, we will take a look at the track the series will be visiting, and point out the drivers to keep an eye out for during the races. We start with a look at the season-opening Clipsal 500 on the streets of Adelaide. Keep checking Race Chaser Online over the course of the 2017 season for your Supercars news and notes!
RACES 1 – 2: CLIPSAL 500 ADELAIDE
Adelaide Street Circuit, Adelaide, South Australia
3.219 km (2.012 mi) semi-temporary street circuit
Saturday, March 4:
Race 1: 78 laps, 250 km, start time 3:20 P.M. (11:50 P.M. EST Friday)
Sunday, March 5:
Race 2: 78 laps, 250 km, start time 3:20 P.M. (11:50 P.M. EST Saturday)
Jamie Whincup (Race 1), James Courtney (Race 2), Nick Percat (Race 3)
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship opens their 2017 season this weekend with the 19th running of the Clipsal 500 Adelaide in the heart of the South Australia capital.
For this season, the format of two 125-km races on Saturday and one 250-km race on Sunday has been scrapped in favor of the traditional one 250-km race a day format that has been most common here. Start times have been made consistent too, so the 3:20 start that most fans of the series have been accustomed to in seasons past will make for the most “traditional” running of the Clipsal 500 since 2013.
The Adelaide Street Circuit is notorious for being one of the toughest tracks on the Supercars calendar, as it provides a challenging mix of high speeds, narrow corners, and all sorts of opportunities to run your car into the wall.
A lap around Adelaide starts with a run through a quick left-right-left section known as the Senna Chicane. Cars will often try to cut the curb here, but they do so at their own risk- cut the curb too much, and it will ruin the suspension. Supercars has a special set of rules just for this part of the track known as the “Three Strike Rule”.
If series officials deem that a car cut too much of a curb, then that car receives a strike. If a car receives three strikes, then it will have to come down and serve a penalty on pit road. There are always a few offenders of this rule during the weekend, so it will be important to see who infringes it — sometimes, it is a major player in one of the races, other times, it is a driver that won’t factor into the finishing order at the front of the field.
After the Senna Chicane comes a section of 90-degree turns through the blocks of Downtown. The most important thing for drivers here will be to make it through this part clean and hit their marks — the unsuspecting driver can run into trouble here and ruin his race if he isn’t careful. Once through this section, the track opens up to the Adelaide and Brabham Straights. Collectively, these two are known as the back straight of the course, and they are separated by the notorious Turn 8.
Turn 8 is a high-speed right-hand dogleg that is easily the most difficult corner of the circuit. Cars will enter the corner at nearly 155 miles an hour with the intention of carrying their speed all the way through. However, Turn 8 narrows considerably on corner exit, and it is common to see cars scrape or hit the wall here hard. It is almost guaranteed that over the course of the weekend that someone will either hit the wall and spin or hit the wall and damage their suspension enough to force a retirement from the race.
After Turn 8, cars thunder down the Brabham Straight to the hairpin at Turn 11. This is the best passing opportunity on the course, and cars will divebomb underneath one another to try and get the preferred line on corner exit (in a manner that is almost identical to Turn 3 on the Indycar street circuit in Toronto). Of course, cars can also make contact here, and drivers can spin out (sometimes in front of the entire field).
From Turn 11, cars work their way around a winding and purpose-built section of track that has been built in the middle of Victoria Park to finish off the lap. This part of the course is not overly significant, but there is a small hairpin on the final corner leading to the front straight that can also serve as a passing opportunity for drivers if they set up the corner correctly.
DRIVERS TO WATCH:
Traditionally, the Adelaide Street Circuit is a track at which few winners have been surprises. This is usually a place where experienced drivers and former champions have the most success. However, the past few seasons have seen that trend bucked considerably. Shane van Gisbgergen surprised everyone in his second race with TEKNO Autosports to win in 2013, followed by Fabian Coulthard’s head-turning run to win Race 2 in 2015. The biggest surprise on that list, however, belongs to Nick Percat, who came through a rain-soaked Sunday race last season to shock the entire Supercars world and earn Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport their first-ever win in the main series.
Yet through the surprises, there have been usual contenders at the front of the field too. There is absolutely no question that over the past three seasons, the Clipsal 500 has been James Courtney’s playground. The Mobil 1 HSV Racing driver is one of only two to win at least one of the races here over the past three seasons, and as such, should be the first name that fans should watch for in Races 1 and 2.
Second on that list should be Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s Jamie Whincup, who is the other driver besides Courtney to notch victories in each of the past three seasons. He has more wins here than anyone else (10) and has made the podium in an astounding 58% of his races. Whincup will contend for victory number 11 over the course of this weekend.
The aforementioned van Gisbergen also is worth another mention here because of his ability to drive on street courses. The street courses have always been van Gisbergen’s strongest tracks, and even though he hasn’t won at Adelaide since 2013, to count the defending series champion out would be nothing short of foolish.
Also of note are the two debutants to the series for 2017: Alex Rullo and Simona de Silvestro. Rullo will be the youngest driver to ever compete in the Supercars championship, at 16 years of age; de Silvestro comes to Supercar after strong performances in IndyCar and sports car racing. This will be their first crack at the main game, but it comes at one of the most unforgiving tracks that the series visits. If the two can survive the brutal nature and intense heat of the season opener, the rest of the season should come easier to both.
For more information on the upcoming race weekend, visit the official Clipsal 500 website at www.clipsal500.com.au.
For more information on the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, visit www.supercars.com.