Sandown: Dodo Racing preview

Whincup and Richards happy to take 'dark horse' tag into Sandown 500 Jamie Whincup and Jason Richards are perfectly happy with the 'dark horse' tag they've had attached to them as they head to this weekend's Betta Electrical Sandown 500 V8 ...

Whincup and Richards happy to take 'dark horse' tag into Sandown 500

Jamie Whincup and Jason Richards are perfectly happy with the 'dark horse' tag they've had attached to them as they head to this weekend's Betta Electrical Sandown 500 V8 Supercar event in Melbourne.

The Dodo Racing duo (who will carry an on-board camera for the first time this weekend) will team up in the #3 Commodore for the endurance event and have been widely tabbed by media experts and those in V8 Supercar circles as one of the combinations that could spring a surprise on the bigger teams.

As team-mates for the first time in 2005, Whincup and Richards have helped take the team to the next level. Coupled with the tie-up with team Technical Director Ron Harrop and the signing of major sponsor Dodo on the eve of the new season, the Melbourne-based team has slowly but surely been moving its way up the Supercar ladder.

Whincup recorded both his and the team's best-ever round result with fourth place in China and success in the endurance races is the next step for the talented team, which held a pre-Sandown test at Winton on August 23 in preparation.

"It doesn't worry me one bit at all being labelled as a 'dark horse'," said Whincup, who sits 16th in points heading to Sandown.

"We've worked hard on building up to the endurance races and some of the results we've been able to achieve this year have put us on radar screens as 'one to watch'.

"Jason and I are the same build and height and run in exactly the same seat position, so we're ideally matched to share his car. It definitely has a few different character traits to the car I drive so I'll have to adjust my style slightly, but it shouldn't be a problem.

"It's my best opportunity for a good result at Sandown by far. A lot of people lose sight of the endurance factor of the event, which I'm not planning on doing!"

Richards knows all about running strongly at Sandown. He very nearly stole victory in the 2003 event from under Mark Skaife's nose, only to make contact while taking the lead and end his race in a sandpit with just a lap and a half to go. It was the closest the Kiwi has been to a V8 Supercar win and he's keen to return to the 3.1-kilometre circuit and make amends.

"We're in a good position. We have a strong driver pairing and good car speed, which was proven at Oran Park," said Richards.

"We had a quick car at Sandown last year as well and finished in the top 10. It's just a matter of keeping ourselves in a position towards the front. You keep out of trouble and let the race come to you, rather than aiming at demolishing the field and spending all of your energy.

"The weather in Melbourne can change pretty quickly - as we saw in 2003 when it snowed and hailed - so you need to keep on your toes with strategy and making quick decisions.

"I've got unfinished business considering what happened there in 2003. I had myself in a position to win on that day. With Dodo Racing we can do it and there's no reason why we can't be just as competitive as I was on that day."

Carrera Cup series leader Fabian Coulthard and HPDC V8 Supercar Series driver Tony D'Alberto will join the team in the #23 Dodo Commodore. Coulthard finished ninth at Sandown last year co-driving with Richards, while D'Alberto is making his debut in the 500-kilometre endurance classic.

The two have tested for the team during the season but this weekend will be their first V8 Supercar Championship Series hit-out for 2005.

"Testing has been solid. Jumping from the Porsche to the V8 is a tall order but you just have to put your head down and do it to the best of your ability," said Coulthard, who will also race in the Carrera Cup round at Sandown this weekend.

"For the Sandown 500 our expectation is to finish. To be in the top 10, or even 15, would be a huge effort in the main series."

D'Alberto sits fifth in the HPDC V8 Supercar Series but will be making his first start with a Level 1 V8 Supercar team this weekend.

"I'm feeling pretty good about the weekend. I'm sure Fabian and I can do a reasonable job for the team," said D'Alberto.

"The car, while it is a Commodore like my regular car, is pretty different. The feel of the car is different while its characteristics and the method for driving it are the same. I'm trying to feel the limits in the Dodo car compared to my own.

"Our last test was a good confidence builder. As expected, we weren't as fast as Jason and Jamie, but we weren't all that far away. We've got our driver changes sorted as well.

"We were going to use a seat insert due to Fabian being a bit taller than me, but we've now got our seat set up on sliders to adjust backwards and forwards at pitstops."

The duo will share responsibilities, with Coulthard to qualify the car at Sandown and D'Alberto to start the 500-kilometre race.

Round nine of the V8 Supercar Championship Series will be a 500-kilometre event. It's the 38th running of the Sandown 500.

Network Ten will telecast all of the action from 12.00pm to 5.00pm on September 11.

-dr-

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Mark Skaife , Fabian Coulthard , Jason Richards , Jamie Whincup , Tony D'Alberto