IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom will return to Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend for Races 10, 11 and 12 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, and Frosty is pumped and ready to build on his strong showing there two weeks ago.

Following the COVID-19 border closure imposed on Victoria, the team has been based at Sydney Motorsport Park for the last 11 days to prepare for racing this weekend, but Winterbottom isn’t expecting any favours on track and expects the racing to be as fierce and competitive as he saw last time out.

The Team 18 crew have focussed their time on team building, keeping busy with fitness training, pit stop practice and general car preparation during this time.

With a top five and three top tens in a strong return to racing in Sydney, Winterbottom is hoping of a step up to silverware this weekend but acknowledges that staying in the top ten is the aim for the IRWIN Racing squad. The 2013 Bathurst 1000 winner and 2015 Supercars Champion looks forward for a return of fans in the grandstand under lights on Saturday following an ‘eerie’ feeling when they raced behind closed doors in late June.

This weekend will see a repeat of the previous Sydney race format, with three 32-lap sprint races to be contested over the two days. Following a three-part qualifying including a top 15 shootout, Race 10 of the championship will kick off at 6:25pm local time on Saturday. Two seperate ten minute qualifying sessions will decide the grid for Races 11 and 12 on Sunday afternoon.

The big talking-point leading into the weekend is the addition of an extra tyre compound to spice up the strategy. Teams will be allocated three sets of hard tyres and two sets of softs, compared to the five sets of soft tyres used previously. With over a second in lap time difference between the soft and hard compound, it will certainly add an extra element of consideration for engineers and drivers as to which compound they will use throughout the three races.

Winterbottom currently sits ninth in the championship standings on 352 points, trailing leader Scott McLaughlin by 222 points.

Stay tuned to Fox Sports 506 and Kayo Sports for all the action live from Sydney this weekend.

Mark Winterbottom, driver #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore

“I’m happy, the team’s happy, morale is up in this situation and we’re ready to get back on track this weekend,” said Mark Winterbottom.

“There won’t be any favours out on track, when you get out there no one knows if you’ve lived in a hotel or a mansion, so it’s game on.

“We picked up after four months of closure with a top five and three top tens, so when you go somewhere for the second time you want to improve on that, so if we can get some silverware that would be great, but top tens have to be the goal.

“We’ve got the hard and soft compound this weekend and there’s about a second lap time difference between the soft and hard tyre, we get three sets of hard tyres but only two sets of soft tyres, so how you manage that over the weekend is crucial.

“Do you go for glory and go all-out in one race and run softs then you’ll have a chance to win it, but then you may as well count the other two races as nothing.

“It’s a sport where if you get the strategy right you’ll look like a hero but if you don’t people ask questions. It’s just how the format is that you won’t be able to get it right in each race this weekend.

“It was an eerie feeling two weeks ago with the empty grandstand, so to see crowds back this weekend is going to be fantastic, the night race on Saturday night is a spectacle that people want to see.

“We’ve thrown in different tyre formats and different scenarios about where we’ve lived and what we’ve done, but once that helmet goes on there’s no mateship, it’s game on and we’re here to try and get a result.”

NEXT EVENT: 18-19 July 2020

RACE LAP RECORD: 1:29.8424 (Jamie Whincup, 2018)


Sydney SuperSprint Schedule

Rookie Practice: 11:10am
Practice 1: 11:45am
Practice 2: 1:30pm
Qualifying Race 10 (two-part): 3:10pm
Top 15 Shootout: 3:45pm
Race 10: 6:25pm (32 laps)

Qualifying (Race 11): 10:45am
Qualifying (Race 12): 11:05am
Race 11: 12:25pm (32 laps)
Race 12: 2:50pm (32 laps)