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Melbourne: The Stage is Set

Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.

It’s time to press pause on your ‘Drive to Survive’ episode and get off the couch, because guess what? The real deal is finally here. That’s right, it’s Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix week.

It’s the one time of the year we’re happy to swallow the second-fiddle pill, although if you thought it was only Formula 1 who was bringing the action to Albert Park, you’re wrong.

Round two of the Supercars championship brings quick races, fast pit stops and all the four-wheeled action you can dream of, all in front of the world’s stage. Excited yet?

For Jamie ‘JDub’ Whincup, the Melbourne 400 marks another key milestone for the seven-time Supercars champion. After being crowned the most winningest Holden driver in Supercars history with 86 wins, JDub will notch his 500th race on Saturday’s race four, an achievement only seven others have reached previously.

Reflecting on his two podiums in 2019, as well as a race win in 2018 where he also won the Larry Perkins trophy, JDub explained the importance of being prepared from the very start of the weekend.

“Our history at the Grand Prix gives us a bit of confidence knowing that if the cars are fast and we can be competitive from the start, we should taste success over the weekend, although that doesn’t guarantee everything.

“We just have to put our head down and work hard to get the cars to where they need to be. It’s a long weekend with four tough races on both hard and soft tyres which we haven’t done in a while, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

After his race one win in Adelaide, JDub is looking to capitalise on his successful start to the season.

“Consistency is key this weekend, trying to put in four consistent races and have consistent pit stops is always the challenge. Who knows what the weather is going to do also? In past it’s always thrown a curveball, but for us we just need to make sure we have the right tyres on at the right time and if we can stay up the front it will be great,” JDub said.

So, JDub, who will you be barracking for in the Formula 1 Grand Prix?

“I’m obviously a massive Red Bull Racing fan, so we’ll certainly all be cheering on Maxy (Max Verstappen) and Alex (Albon) and hopefully either one can get their first win around the Albert Park circuit.”

(Article – Melbourne 400 explained)

For Shane ‘SVG’ van Gisbergen, the confidence knowing the speed #97 is capable of is the most exciting aspect coming into round two.

“I’m keen to start a new weekend with the confidence knowing we have a fast car that can be competitive all weekend.

“It’s a different format from most Supercars events. They’re quicker races, quicker pit stops, and the rules around tyres will be interesting to watch. The track is also harsh on tyres, so it will be important for us to look after them while maintaining a competitive speed,” SVG said.

Having tasted success at Albert Park in recent years, SVG hasn’t stepped on the podium since the event has been contested for points, something that he’ll be looking to achieve this week.

“I’ve been able to claim a couple of victories at Albert Park but not since we’ve been racing for points, so I’m hoping to capitalise on our quick car and hopefully have some success over the four races.”

On-track action from the Melbourne 400 kicks off on Thursday with two practice sessions, with races 3-6 contested over Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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Melbourne 400 Explained

The countdown to round two of the Supercars calendar continues, and lucky for us we’ll be getting to show our Formula 1 counterparts a thing or two….

To say the Melbourne 400 is a jammed-packed week of Supercars action is an understatement. Unfamiliar race formats and quicker pit stops is one thing but doing this in front of a global audience is added pressure. So, what makes the Melbourne 400 different to other events on the calendar? We sat down with Red Bull Holden Racing Team Manager Mark ‘Dutto’ Dutton to explain the format of the event.

“The Australian Grand Prix is the only event we go to on the Supercars calendar where we’re not the main category – we’re running second fiddle to Formula 1, which is quite humbling.

“Over the years the format has changed. We used to not race for points. While this decreased the pressure for most teams, for us having an identical major sponsor to our Formula 1 counterparts to represent, it didn’t relieve any pressure for us due to the attendance of high-ranking personnel.

“The fact that the Melbourne 400 has become for points is a good thing, not just for that reason, but for the racing in general. Everyone tries harder and all teams take it seriously and you’re putting in the same amount of expense to get there and the same amount of preparation on the car,” Dutto said.

When asked about the on-track format, Dutto explained the important role tyres will play during the four days.

“It’s an interesting format overall. The fact that the circuit itself is so long – over 5km which is second behind Bathurst. We have two half-hour practice sessions which isn’t a lot, although it may feel like a lot for the drivers because the tyre degradation is so high, and you quickly chew through your tyre bank. You must balance the number of laps you’re doing, making sure they’re quality laps, ensuring you’re not hurting your tyres without recording valuable data for the weekend.

“The four qualifying sessions is interesting as well because one of the decent awards for the year is the pole position award, so if you have a good Grand Prix, you can potentially get four pole position awards against your name which is twice the amount compared to other Supercars events,” Dutto explained.

“There’s also four 100km races jammed into the weekend, which doesn’t sound like much but around this circuit with the tyre degradation it’s huge. The tyre management is so important. To throw a curveball, you also have to run both a hard tyre compound and a soft tyre compound in the races, which will be interesting to see if all teams migrate to the same strategy or if teams take another strategic route.”

A short, sharp race format calls for pit stops to match, so the crew are working around the clock to ensure their tyre changing skills are up to scratch. We asked Dutto what to expect from the team.

“This is the only time during the year we’ll see fast pit stops. For the Melbourne 400, it’s no fuel and just tyres which means you have the six pit crew just changing tyres, so stops will be fast which will be cool to see. At Adelaide for example, the minimum pit stop time was roughly eight to nine seconds which for a tyre-changer is a long time to change a wheel. At Melbourne, if you can get the wheel changed in under four seconds, you’re doing a good job.”

No pressure boys…

Asking Dutto to sum up his expectations for the Melbourne 400, he reminisced on how the event has evolved over the years.

“It’s been a funny event over the years. As I mentioned, we never used to race for points whereas now we do. There used to be implications for ‘not trying’ where teams would actually get fined. How was this policed? If the officials deemed your team was putting a half-arsed effort into racing, you could get fined for basically not trying.

“We never used to have a pit lane either. We used to be in marquees out the back and we’d push everything out onto the Formula 1 pit lane, but these days we obviously have our own pit lane. It’s a cool event especially with the qualifying format. It’s a high reward circuit if you have the cars right, yet a high penalising one if you’ve got it wrong so there’s a lot on the line,” Dutto concluded.

On-track action from the Melbourne 400 begins on Thursday March 12, with races 3-6 to run over an action-packed four days.

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Behind the Scenes: Melbourne 400

No doubt our fans are glad Melbourne has come and gone – we are too!  Not sure how many more lows and highs with sweet and sour moments we could have jammed packed into one race weekend.

Nonetheless let’s take a moment to reflect on the whirlwind we now call the Melbourne 400, 2019.

 

Push it:

No stopping her retreating into the garage.

 

Come again:

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

If looks or smiles could kill.

 

Size matters!

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

Nah mate it was this big!

 

You did that?

Beautiful job with the eye shadow.

 

Pose and placement:

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

Future Black Swan.

 

Oh no!

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

Sorry boss I … please don’t yell at me… please don’t yell at me!

 

Ugh:

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

You really want my opinion?

 

No comment:

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

Eyes forward mate.

 

Back side:

Shake it off.

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Archive Australian Grand Prix

Take the good with the bad in Melbourne

It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen in a manic Melbourne 400 meeting at the Grand Prix weekend.

By Matthew Clayton on redbull.com

Every cloud has a silver lining, right? The Australian Grand Prix weekend was a tough one on the whole for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, with Shane van Gisbergen’s side of the garage more than happy to put it in the rear-view mirror by Sunday night. We’ll get back to SVG later, but teammate Jamie Whincup left Albert Park with a deserving and broad smile on his face after securing his 200th Supercars podium in the last of the weekend’s four races on Sunday and putting himself right back into title contention to boot.

With just 10 minutes of qualifying for each of the four races scheduled across the weekend, J-Dub says the preparation for the AGP event is “as gnarly as it gets” now it counts for championship points. But the seven-time champion rode the bumps and bruises beautifully across the four days of on-track action to finish two of them on the podium and three of four inside the top four, slicing his deficit to series leader Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) to just 31 points after a weekend where the new Ford Mustang made it six victories from as many starts this season.

McLaughlin has five of those wins, but it was Saturday evening’s fifth race of the season, where the defending series champion clashed with Cam Waters on the formation lap to the grid and didn’t take the start, that helped the error-free Whincup get back into the picture on a weekend where, by his own admission, he didn’t have the raw pace to go with the number 17.

“We didn’t have the fastest cars by a long shot, but we worked as a team to do everything we could over the weekend to get the best results possible,” Whincup said on Sunday after wrapping up his weekend in Melbourne with a third-place finish.

“To finish second overall and third today, we take it and run with it and consider the Melbourne 400 a success. We understand there is a lot of work to do, but we will be more fired up to find further performance gains within the car and the team.

“Without a doubt the team has the same opinion that we will continue pushing hard to bridge the deficit and if we get there it will be a win for everyone; the competition will be stronger and we can give the cars in front a run for their money.”

 

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

Whincup is never one to look back at his racing stats while he’s still active in the sport, but did take pause to consider his podium milestone, a double century that features 113 race wins.

“It’s also a proud moment to rock up with 200 podiums,” he said.

“I have been working really hard in this category for a while. I don’t usually go for the numbers, but it’s really nice when they arrive.”

Speaking of nice, we reckon SVG’s first post-event beverage might have been the nicest part of a horror weekend where, if our combative Kiwi didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. Fifth (for Races 3 and 6) was the best he could do in that “gnarly” quarter of qualifying sessions we mentioned earlier, while he had more drama in four races than you’d normally get in four seasons.

An engine failure saw him become an early spectator in Friday’s first race of the weekend, while he could only move one place forward from 11th on the grid in Saturday’s first race. Then things really went awry; Saturday’s evening race ended up with SVG on three wheels after car 97 shed its right rear at Turn 10, while on Sunday, a 15-second time penalty for a clash with Team Penske’s Fabian Coulthard on lap two saw him drop to 13th place, and he eventually finished 22nd.

From second in the championship coming into Albert Park, SVG fell to 11th overall after a weekend best consigned to the rubbish bin of history; the only good news was that there’s 26 races still to go to arrest that deficit …

“That was the end of a horror weekend on our side of the garage,” an exasperated SVG said on Sunday.

“I felt like a punching bag in that race. I started in fifth position and was hoping for a good start and clean race. I was supposed to then settle into the race to see if we could improve the car, but everyone else had other ideas. It’s a real shame finishing almost last, but we need to move on and be better.”

The next chance for SVG, J-Dub and the Holden hordes to do just that comes at Symmons Plains from April 5-7; Tasmania has been a happy hunting ground for Triple Eight over the years, which means optimism will be high as the series heads to the Apple Isle.

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Archive Australian Grand Prix

Live Diary: Melbourne 400

Jamie Whincup – Car #88

Race 4Third

“We didn’t have the fastest cars by a long shot but we worked as a team to do everything we could over the weekend to get the best results possible.  To finish second overall and third today, we take it and run with it and consider the Melbourne 400 a success.  We understand there is a lot of work to do but we will be more fired up to find further performance gains within the car and the team.  Without a doubt the team has the same opinion that we will continue pushing hard to bridge the deficit and if we get there it will be a win for everyone; the competition will be stronger and we can give the cars in front a run for their money.  It’s also a proud moment to rock up with 200 podiums.  I have been working really hard in this category for a while, I don’t usually go for the numbers but it’s really nice when they arrive.”

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

Shane van Gisbergen – Car #97

Race 4 – 22nd

“That was the end of a horror weekend on our side of the garage. I felt like a punching bag in that race.  I started in fifth position and was hoping for a good start and clean race.  I was supposed to then settle into the race to see if we could improve the car but everyone else had other ideas.  It’s a real shame finishing almost last, but we need to move on and be better.”

1600:  No doubt a weekend of ultimate highs and lows but it’s time to pack up, regroup and move onto Round 3 in Tassie.

 

1430:  What a weekend for SVG he just can’t catch a break – 15 second penalty.

1405:   SVG has been battling it out getting knocks from all sides – atta boy!

1345:  Pushing and shoving in the front of the pack with nose to tail for JDub.

1335:  Final race for Melbourne 400!  Short and sweet – 13 laps and it’s done.

1130:  Cruising day for the drivers – get to put their feet up.

0945:  Roller coaster weekend or not – huge shout out and thanks to our fans!

 

0800:  Let’s finish out the weekend strong and heads held high!

Sunday 17 March

 

Jamie Whincup – Car #88

Race 2 –  Fourth

Race 3 –  Second

“We had a great day and race today. We pushed hard early and were aggressive straight at the start which then allowed us to lead the race.  Obviously, we had a little bit of luck with the incident involving the front two cars.  We were racing car #55 in the pits but in hindsight that may not have been the best idea as it was always going to get past us.  Within the race, I really enjoyed the battle with the BJR team as they have a similar car to us and have been doing a great job racing it this year.  I was fortunate though to just came home in front of them.”

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

Shane van Gisbergen – Car #97

Race 2 –  10th

Race 3 –  22nd

“Today there is really isn’t much to say about the race.  It’s tough to go out there and have all these issues.  The beginning of the race wasn’t ideal with the starting position, but it seemed alright.  It felt like the engine was slow and then wheel fell off so it’s not what we wanted.  The crew will look at it tonight and hopefully be better tomorrow.”

2000:  Only just getting a chance to catch up with drivers after such a late whirlwind race.

1820:  Wait is over – RACE TIME!

1720:  Patience is a virtue today – still one hour before the race.

1620: Race 3 in an  2 hours.

Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 Event 2 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. 14th-17th March 2019.

1320:  All over like a flash of lightening.  Well done crew.  Eyes forward to the next one!

J-Dub – Race 2 — Third

SVG – Race 2 — 10th

1305:  After quck start JDub is nose to tail trying to hold off the rest of the pack behind him while SVG is cruising in style while driving Miss Daisy back in P11.


1250:  Race 2 – 13 laps – short and sweet!

1200:  Our racing this weekend has been overshadowed by the news in NZ.

 


1110:  These guys are machines!  Practice makes perfect – every day (or at least quicker every time).

900:  Another late start to the day but full of opportunities for the fans to see our drivers!

Saturday 16 March 

 

Jamie Whincup – Car #88

Qualifying Race 3 –  Sixth (Fastest Time: 1:54.6426)

Qualifying Race 4 –  Third (Fastest Time: 1:54.6318)

Race 1  Eighth (Fastest Time: 50:23.2620)

“We qualified seventh which firstly wasn’t a great starting position. On top of this, I had a poor start to the race losing a spot straight away, so I need to do a better job there. Also, there is some very fast opposition out there, so our finishing position is combination of all those factors. Eighth position is down the order, a lot further than what we would like but that’s the way it goes. I am looking forward to starting a little further up, closer to the front, for the race tomorrow and getting some cleaner air.” 

Shane van Gisbergen – Car #97

Qualifying Race 3 –  13th (Fastest Time: 1:55.1722)

Qualifying Race 4 –  5th (Fastest Time: 1:54.7325)

Race 1  NC (Fastest Time: 42:14.9681)

“My qualifying was bad however the race was good and fun. I was trying to save tyres and push as hard as I could as there was no pace at the start with the other cars simply too fast for us. Towards the end of the race I passed a few cars and was running down at the end but then had a motor issue. It’s a real shame to end the race. We will check the damage, hopefully it’s a not a big fix and have another crack at it with three races to go this weekend. Overall though our day is insignificant in comparison to what happened in New Zealand. It’s very sad to see the news coming from over there. My thoughts are with all the families affected by the situation and my country.”

2000: We caught the drivers just before the team headed into debrief and the crew begins bonding over fixing cars.

1830:  Car #97 has had enough – will not budge! Unlucky finish for SVG.

1820:  JDub hasn’t learnt from qualy – still getting ino trouble over T9!

1815: Phew that was CLOSE!

 

1745:  Off to a great start – smooth sailing through the first three laps.

1715:  30 minutes till racing starts at the Melbourne 400.

1430: Great driving on the final session – all race start positions for the weekend are now set.

J-DUB — P3 – 01:54.6318

SVG — P5 – 01:54.7325

 

1425:  That was quick – JDub is done and out of the car currently in P2 with 5 minutes left of qualifying.

1420:  It’s all go, go, GO! – these turn around times seem faster than what’s happening out there on the track!

1410: Catch a quick breath and back to it for another round for our drivers.

J-DUB —  P6 – 01:54.6426

SVG – P13 – 01:55.1722

 

 

1405:  Both drivers have done their first lap and going out for another drive.

1359:  Releasing cars in 30 seconds.

1300:  Crew is busy preparing the cars for qualifying in an hour.

1215:  and getting to spend some quality time with the Red Bull family.

1000: A little sleep-in on Day 2 before another full action packed day.

Friday 15 March

 

Jamie Whincup – Car #88

Practice 1 –  Third  (Fastest Time: 1:56.0824)
Practice 2 –  Sixth (Fastest Time: 1:55:3531)
Qualifying Race 1 –  Seventh (Fastest Time: 1:54.6352)
Qualifying Race 2 –  Third (Fastest Time: 1:54.3431)

“We didn’t quite maximise the first qualifying session and left a few tenths of a second on the table for other teams, however (David) Cauchi (Race Engineer) did a great job tuning the car for the second run.  The car felt fantastic and I was able to throw it all out on the line so I couldn’t be happier with the time for the second qualifying session.”

 

Shane van Gisbergen – Car #97

Practice 1 –  22nd  (Fastest Time: 1:58.2981)
Practice 2 –  20th (Fastest Time: 1:56.3716)
Qualifying Race 1 –  Fifth (Fastest Time: 1:54.5425)
Qualifying Race 2 –  11th (Fastest Time: 1:54.8335)

“It was a shame we missed the first sessions with a few little problems that we had but the crew did a good job to fixing them in time for the next session.  The second session was awesome and we tried to do as many laps as possible.  The first qualifying was good, the car was nice and then the next one I made a mistake but luckily that race is only for 50 points so hopefully we can improve in the qualifying and race tomorrow.”

 

1730:  Quick catch up before the drivers head to dinner and debrief.

1720: Mighty effort by the whole crew!

J-DUB — P3 – 1:54.3431

SVG — P11 – 1:54.8335

 


1700: Not a bad run for the crew in the first qualifying for the day but no time for mucking around.  Back to back we go!

J-DUB — P7 – 1:54.6352

SVG — P5 – 1:54.5425

 

1640: and before we know it… it’s time to QUALIFY!

1535:  In a blink of an eye it all seems to be over and making progress.

J-DUB — P6 – 1:55:3531

SVG — P20 – 1:56.3716

 


1500:  Releasing cars and pit lane opened.

1400:  Quick debrief and heading back out there for another practice.

1255:  Practice is under way and its tit for tat for the fastest lap times.

J-DUB — P3 – 1:56.0824

SVG — P22 – 1:58.2981

1150:  Down to business and time to get on the serious side – driver’s in black out.

1055: and a moment to catch up with our friends in the F1 Red Bull Racing team!

 

0845:  Full schedule ahead but first a tripe down memory lane.

 

0700: Melbourne 400 at the Australian Grand Prix – we are here!