ORAN PARK VICTORY ON NEUTRAL TERRITORY COULD UNLOCK DOOR TO V8 SUPERCAR CHAMPIONSHIP For the past six years, the winner of the Oran Park round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series round in Sydney's outskirts has gone on and managed to lift the...
ORAN PARK VICTORY ON NEUTRAL TERRITORY COULD UNLOCK DOOR TO V8 SUPERCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
For the past six years, the winner of the Oran Park round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series round in Sydney's outskirts has gone on and managed to lift the championship trophy at the end of the year.
Unfortunately for Holden though, that streak has meant arch-rivals Ford have won there for the past three years before clinching the championship in the 13th and final round.
But the fact that the circuit is neutral territory, due to none of the V8 Supercar teams being based in Sydney after Tasman Motorsport moved to Melbourne at the end of 2004, gives Holden's line-up of Commodore drivers a real sniff of success this weekend.
At the forefront is Toll HSV Dealer Team driver Garth Tander, who leads the championship at what is effectively its halfway point.
The 29-year-old is fresh from a crushing victory at Queensland Raceway, where he ran rings around the five Ford teams that use the circuit as their official testing venue.
And the fact he was strong at Oran Park last year, where he rocketed from 26th on the grid to finish fifth in the second race, gives the 2000 Bathurst champion an extra little boost of confidence that his team will be on the pace from the outset.
"I love the track, but I have never actually won anything up there," Tander says.
"I really enjoy the layout because it is one of the true classic racing circuits left in Australia that hasn't been changed that much.
"This weekend we need to claw some more points back off Craig (Lowndes), because we need to lead in both unadjusted and adjusted points prior to the endurance races. That way we can be a bit smarter with what we do about finishing in the endurance races before dropping our worst round after Bathurst.
"Coming off our win in Queensland, we are looking forward to resuming the battle, especially as we have just had probably our best test day of the year at Winton. We just concentrated on two or three main items of the car, and it went very well."
Jack Daniel's Racing's Steven Richards was a winner at Oran Park last year, taking victory in Race 1 after putting the Perkins team into the Shootout for the first-ever time at the circuit.
His namesake, Jason Richards from Tasman Motorsport, has special reason for feeling confident heading to the Sydney venue, even after a puzzling weekend in the last round at Queensland Raceway where his team simply couldn't find any speed.
Oran Park was the Tasman team's test circuit in 2004 when it was based in Sydney, and was previously home to the Lansvale team that Tasman was formed from. Richards has had a solid run there in the past. He finished fifth with Team Dynamik in 2003 and was seventh in Tasman's 2004 debut year after qualifying fourth.
But perhaps most notable was his efforts last year. In a car quickly repaired from its roll-over at Queensland Raceway three weeks prior, Richards flew to third fastest in practice, a spot in the Top 10 Shootout and sixth in Race 1.
"Apart from Bathurst, it's my favourite circuit without doubt and has become something of a 'pet' track for us," says Richards, who currently sits 12th in points in the V8 Supercar Series.
"I had my first Shootout appearance there for Team Kiwi in 2002 and from then on I've had some of my best sprint event qualifying and race performances.
"A win in a round of the V8 Supercar Series is next on the list for me and if our run at Oran Park continues into this weekend, we could be a dark horse among the championship contenders.
"I like the way the circuit flows. There's a lot of medium to high speed corners that suit my style. Coupled with the fact that it has been a test track of Tasman in the past, plus the fact my engineer Wally Storey has a good grasp on the setup, it gives us far more strengths than weaknesses."
Returning to the cockpit of the #39 Team Sirromet Wines Commodore this weekend is a former team-mate of Richards, Holden Young Lion Fabian Coulthard.
The Kiwi raced the car at the Australian Grand Prix, Pukekohe and Winton and will return from his base in Auckland to get in vital experience prior to the endurance events.
Oran Park is the last round until the end of October where all V8 Supercars drivers have their destiny in their own hands.
The teams will switch to 'endurance mode' for the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 before returning to 'regular' racing at the Gold Coast Indy event a fortnight after Bathurst.
-credit: holden motorsport