Oran Park: WPS Racing preview

MOMENTS BEFORE THE BATTLE The seconds immediately before the start of a V8 Supercar race, as 32 competitors take up their positions on the grid after the formation lap, are arguably some of the most intense moments of the race. WPS Racing's...


The seconds immediately before the start of a V8 Supercar race, as 32 competitors take up their positions on the grid after the formation lap, are arguably some of the most intense moments of the race.

WPS Racing's Jason Bargwanna says that despite the roar of 20,000 horsepower on the grid, all seems silent in the cockpit, however this perceived silence only serves to accentuate the thunderous climax of the start itself.

Only the two drivers on the front row of the grid have a clear track ahead. In the distance they can see the first corner, the first braking mark. Those behind see just a mass of cars, rear bumpers and lights. It is through this wall of cars which Bargwanna says a driver must pick out a path when the lights go out, even if that means sometimes having door-to-door contact with other cars.

"The start is undoubtedly the single most important part of the race, you can gain or lose up to a dozen positions in a matter of milliseconds as you build the revs in anticipation of the light, then release the clutch and race towards the opening turn surrounded by 30 other drivers fighting for position," said Bargwanna.

"Your preparation begins about an hour before the race and every start is just as intense as the one from the race before, your adrenaline is rushing, your blood is pumping, it is just an amazing feeling when you get a perfect start."

One hour prior to the scheduled start of the race Bargwanna will begin to prepare himself for the race ahead. This process starts by changing into his race equipment which includes full length fireproof underwear, a triple layer fireproof suit, boots, gloves, HANS device and helmet. When Bargwanna climbs inside his V8 Supercar he is wearing nearly $6,000 worth of safety apparel.

Bargwanna will climb into his WPS Racing Falcon approximately five minutes prior to the opening of the exit of pit lane. The exit of pit lane opens 30-minutes before the start of the long distance races and 20-minutes for the sprint races. He will be strapped in with a five-point safety harness and then have his number one mechanic check to ensure that all drink bottles and radios are connected correctly before exiting the pit lane.

Here is a detailed run down of the lead up to the start of a V8 Supercar race for this weekend's round of the championship at Sydney's Oran Park Raceway.

20 minutes before race start
The exit to pit lane is opened and the cars take the circuit for their observation lap before taking their starting position on the 31-car grid.

Starting positions
The starting positions are determined from qualifying where each driver has 20-minutes to set their fastest lap time possible, generally the field is separated by less than a second in their qualifying times. After qualifying the top ten qualifiers go onto a one-lap shootout against the clock with the fastest driver being rewarded to start on position one (or pole position) and the second fastest and so on down to tenth position on the grid.

15 minutes before race start
The exit to pit lane is closed and all remaining cars in the pit lane will be required to start from the pit area. If they are not able to start the race before the field completes the opening lap that driver will be deemed to be out of the race.

3 minutes before race start
The grid is cleared of all promotional personnel once the five-minute board is displayed at the front of the grid. Several team mechanics stay with their drivers in case of any last minute requirements.

2 minutes before race start Once the two minute board is displayed all mechanics and team personnel must clear the grid. It is now only the drivers, strapped into their cars, who remain on the grid.

30 seconds before race start
When the 30-second board is shown all drivers will start their engines and within 30-seconds of this board being shown, a green flag at the front of the grid will wave the cars off for their warm-up lap. At the completion of this lap the drivers will again take up their position on the grid, engines running.

At the completion of the formation lap
Cars will pull up at their allotted place on the grid ready for the start of the race.

Ten-second board
Once all cars are in position a green flag is waived by a flag marshall at the back of the grid and the ten second board is displayed signifying that the start lights will be illuminated within ten seconds.

Start lights
The five red lights at the front of the grid are known as the start lights, these are illuminated one by one and once they are all lit up they will be extinguished within three to seven seconds and the race will begin. Some drivers further down the field will sometimes have their mechanics communicate to them over the two-way radio the stage of the lights if their vision is impaired.

Race Start
As the red lights are extinguished the drivers reactions are on par with those of a 100-metre sprinter as the starting pistol is fired -- something in the order of a few hundredths of a second. All 31 drivers release the clutch almost simultaneously and accelerate rapidly towards the opening turn while jostling inches apart to gain a position.

The heartbeat of a driver
A driver's heartbeat underlines how intense the start is. When Bargwanna is resting his heartbeat is in the vicinity of 50 to 60 beats per minute. As can be seen by the graph attached (see image sidebar) his heart beat rapidly increases as the race start draws closer and reaches a maximum of 155 while braking into the opening turn.

-credit: WPS Racing

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Series Supercars
Drivers Jason Bargwanna