Curtain call for 2005 as V8 Supercars return to Phillip Island
Phillip Island will have an 'end of school' feel this weekend as it hosts the final round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series, but Dodo Racing's drivers are both happy to see the fast and sweeping circuit back on the V8 Supercar calendar.
Jason Richards and Jamie Whincup are looking forward to racing a V8 Supercar at a circuit regarded by many as second only to Bathurst in terms of the best racetracks in Australia.
Speeds at Phillip Island are high and its constant radius sweeping corners mean the overall average lap speed is one of the highest on the V8 Supercar tour.
The 4.45-kilometre circuit didn't host a round of the series last year but makes a welcome return for 2005 as Richards aims for his fourth top 10 finish in a row and Whincup makes his final start for the team.
Richards was 10th in the last round at Symmons Plains in Tasmania and wants to round out the year in style.
"It's almost like a new track for us again because things are very different in our world since we last raced there in 2003," said Richards.
"It will be a whole new learning curve. In terms of the championship I'm in a position where I can't go backwards and can only go forward a few spots, provided I have a good weekend of course.
"Next year's pit garage order for the teams is decided on the driver championship positions so the more spots I can gain the better for 2006 to move us closer to where the championship front-running teams are pitted.
"Phillip Island gives us one more chance to have another crack at making the Shootout too (Richards has made five of them this season). We'll focus at our last test day in December on the art of the flying lap because it's become so important these days in V8 Supercars and we intend on making more of them next year.
"The teams who test at Phillip Island will definitely have an advantage for the first session. If they don't then they've been wasting a year testing there! What happens with a lot of tracks is that they 'grip up' with the rubber from 34 V8 Supercars running around being laid down. That can change the track's characteristics and alter your setup, so might help us bridge the gap to the guys with the home-track advantage.
"The teams who test there will be fine tuned to the track conditions and will have an advantage for sure but not for too long." Whincup will make his last start for the team at Phillip Island before heading elsewhere for 2006. He wants to go out on a high with a team that gave him the opportunity to help rebuild his reputation and show his talents.
"Phillip Island is one of my favourite tracks alongside Bathurst. I'm looking to finishing my time with Tasman and Dodo Racing on a real high. We've had a great year and achieved a lot. I'm proud to have been involved in the team's growth in 2005 and I want to get a result in the last round to reward the team for their hard work.
"Because we don't test at Phillip Island and haven't been there in two years, we'll take a bit of a punt on setup. It's all part of the challenge. It's no different to going to a track like Queensland Raceway where a lot of other teams test.
"There's no reason why we can't tune the car to the circuit and run with the guys who test there regularly.
"Turn one is fearful. You approach it at 280 kph and bang the car down to fifth gear and hook it into the apex of the right-hander. You let it drift all the way to the left on the exit because there's not enough time to pull the car back to the right hand side of the road to set it up for the left- handed Southern Loop, which is turn two.
"There are three main passing spots. One is the hairpin, the second is over Lukey Heights and up the inside into MG Corner towards the end of the lap and the other is down the Gardner Straight in front of the pits."
Practice begins at Phillip Island on Friday at 1.00pm with a two-hour session. Qualifying, the Top 10 Shootout and a 100-kilometre race will be held on Saturday before two 140-kilometre races complete the 2005 season on Sunday.
Network Ten will telecast all of the BigPond Grand Finale in Australia, beginning on Saturday November 26 from 3.30pm to 5pm. Its coverage on Sunday November 27 will run from 2pm to 5pm.