IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom has acknowledged the unique Qualifying format as a key component to success at the Beaurepaires Melbourne 400.

With seven wins, Winterbottom, who is tied for second on the Albert Park race winners honour roll behind Russell Ingall on eight, will hit the track for two 30-minute practice sessions before an individual 10-minute qualifying session for each of the four races at the Albert Park circuit.

Qualifying for Races 3 and 4 will be held back-to-back on Thursday afternoon, while Qualifying for Races 5 and 6 will also be held back-to-back the next morning on Friday.

The ‘International Super400’ format sees 4x100km races to be held across the weekend, all worth a maximum of 75 points for the race winner towards the championship standings.

The races will see a mix of the soft and hard tyre compound with a mandatory pit stop required to change all four tyres. Refuelling is not included in the pit stops for this weekend so the speed of the pit stops will be largely dictated by the speed of the tyre changes, adding an extra element of excitement and pressure for the teams.

The first day of on-track activity marks the busiest of the four-day schedule for the Supercars Championship as the major support category to the first round of the Formula 1 World Championship at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend.

The on-track action kicks off today with Practice 1 & 2 at 11:55am and 1:35pm respectively, before Qualifying for Races 3 & 4 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship back-to-back from 4:10pm.

Mark Winterbottom, driver #18 IRWIN Racing Commodore

“The Melbourne 400’s format is a tough one,” said Mark Winterbottom.

“Effectively it’s a one-lap qualifying format which means if you make a mistake on your flying lap it’s game over. Having a predictable car is the plan so you can attack on that lap with margin for error.

“Qualifying really sets up the weekend. If you qualify at the front you race at the front, so there’s a lot of emphasis on that one lap and it’s quite tricky to pull off.

“Throw in the different compounds with the hard and soft tyre to be used in the race, there is a fair difference in pace between them.

“We have to consider where the bang-for-our-buck is if we start of finish on the soft tyre.

“It’s a big event, I’ve won here seven times in the past so we have a good record and a lot of our corporate partners are here too so given their presence there’s a bit of nervousness and excitement to get out there and perform.”