He’s been labelled the King of Townsville, and with eight wins to his name at the circuit from just 17 races, it’s little wonder Jamie Whincup is tipped as the man to beat.
Next week the #88 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore will be tackling the North Queensland track, as the man behind the machine attempts to clock his first race win of the year.
But don’t be fooled into thinking J-Dub is the only one with a fire in his belly for that maiden 2017 victory. The man behind the man behind the machine (try saying that at 11:30pm on Townsville 400 Sunday!), also known as David Cauchi, has his sights very much set on the top step of the podium.
“Jamie definitely likes the Townsville circuit and has traditionally gone well there,” he said when we tracked him down between engineering meetings and spirulina shots – whatever they are.
“The results over the last few race meetings have been strong, but not strong enough to get us to the top of the podium. Hopefully based on our past success there we can finally get onto the top step this year.”
As Jamie mentioned during Darwin, the car #88 crew has been taking a bit of a different direction since an extremely successful test day earlier this month. Despite a strong showing in the Top End, this new setup strategy is still taking a bit of work, but Cauchi’s confident it’s heading in the right direction.
“We’ve gone in a little bit of a different direction to the other cars and it hasn’t paid off massively yet, but these things take time, so hopefully we can bring it all together a little bit more next week and start to see some of that work pay off.
“I’d like to think we can hit our stride in Townsville. We’ve been working at trying to improve our qualifying pace and we’re starting to see a few small improvements there.”
Even with a strong qualifying result though, Townsville is one of those places that can throw a curve ball at you – and hit you smack-bang in the face.
Like so many other times this year, the T-words are again attracting a whole heap of paddock chatter in the lead-up.
Wait, minds out of the gutter, people. We mean tyres!
“We’re on the super soft tyre compound this weekend and with Townsville being a very high degradation circuit it will open up plenty of strategy options in the race,” continued Cauchi. “We saw last year a late safety car and we saw all but the first top four cars, I think, pit to take fresher tyres and that certainly paid off for a couple of cars who finished up the pointy end.
“I think we’ll see some fast lap times, it’s just a question of how long they’re going to hold on in the race and who comes up with the best strategy over the race distance. It’s two 200km races, so long races there both days.”
We’ve seen anything and everything happen on the streets of Townsville – yup, we mean both on and off the track – but there’s a particular team we have in mind that would probably like to add to its Townsville win tally.
“I think DJR Team Penske have proved this year that they’ve had performance at every circuit we’ve gone to up until now, so we’re 100 percent expecting them to probably be better, a bit stronger than they were at Adelaide,” he said, the Clipsal 500 being the last championship race we had on a street circuit. “I’m not expecting them to have got any slower!
“I think they’ll be a big challenge for sure. Townsville’s a place where we’ve seen a couple of other teams pop up, so there will be plenty of competition, no doubt.”