Winton may be Nissan Motorsport's home circuit, but as Rick Kelly writes in his exclusive column, he's not expecting any home ground advantage this weekend.
These days, there is no such thing as a home track advantage in V8 Supercars.
The current V8 Supercars rules effectively give us the season-opening two-day test at Sydney Motorsport Park, extended running on Fridays at race meets, where you are allowed to give your enduro co-drivers a steer, and one private day at your designated test track.
Winton is the home track for all of the Victorian teams, but when was the last time I had my Jack Daniel’s Nissan circulating there? It was just prior to the Sandown 500 last year and largely used for bringing the enduro co-drivers up to speed, as well as ‘hot’ pitstop practice, including brake pad and driver changes. The fact that it rained all afternoon effectively only gave us the morning to have a meaningful test and tune.
This year we are once again looking to use our test day a bit later in the year. The plan will be to give the co-drivers and pitstop crew a decent hit out, as well as test out some big ticket items such as engine upgrades. Test days are also an opportune time to trial some out of the box components or theories that you don’t have the confidence to try out in public at race meetings.
Regardless of any rules and regulations, you only have to look at the history books to see that a home test track isn’t a significant advantage any more. Since 2004, Victorian-based teams have only won one race more than the Queensland-based squads at Winton.
Most drivers in the field have used Winton as a test track at some stage in their careers, so everyone should know the lie of the land.
It’s great that Nissan have stepped up and are the naming rights sponsor for the NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint. It would be awesome to pick up our own trophy!
Back in 2013, James Moffat and Michael Caruso scored a one-two result for Nissan Motorsport at Winton, so it’s definitely a track that presents a strong opportunity for us. If we hit the ground running, dot the i’s and cross the t’s, we are more than capable of scoring a top result.
That said it’s a very difficult circuit to get right, both from a setup and a driving point of view. Because of the tight nature and relatively slow speeds, a fraction of a second here or there really adds up.
Last year we turned up to Winton, and everyone was surprised by track repairs that completely transformed the circuit. The compound used to seal cracks around the track made the surface incredibly grippy, but then it chunked up into clumps, making it even harder to dip off-line to attempt an overtake in the races.
The lap times set last year were unbelievable, and everyone easily broke my old qualifying lap record. Hopefully after we set the quickest race lap on Sunday at Barbagallo, we can keep the pace going into qualifying this weekend, but I doubt that anyone will be breaking the new lap records for a long time to come.
The consistently seems to be a bit of a curve ball at Winton, no matter if it’s the track repairs, rain, hail, black ice, whatever, the place never lets you rest.
Keys to Success
Qualifying is always important, but probably more so at Winton than anywhere else we visit. Although it’s not the shortest track on the calendar, it does have the slowest average speed, and the slowest top speed. Because the field is so tight, where you qualify pretty much dictates where you will finish.
The tricky thing at Winton is that the track behaviour changes depending on what has recently been running, how much rubber there is on the track, the temperature, sunshine and so on. The track itself features a fair few different types of corners that take some compromising when setting the car up. There are some really tight corners, the change of direction at the start of the lap, and there’s also the sweeper, which is a fair bit faster again.
One thing for sure, it’s always an entertaining round, so tune in!