After Team 18’s best weekend yet in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom heads to North Queensland and the streets of Townsville for the NTI Townsville SuperSprint, arriving fresh and ready to continue his strong progress this weekend.

The Townsville street circuit has been a successful venue in the past for Winterbottom, who returns as one of only two drivers alongside Jamie Whincup to have clean swept a Townsville race weekend, picking up two wins at the Reid Park Street Circuit during his 2015 championship season.

The Supercars will contest a similar format to the last four weekends in their return to racing, with three 39-lap races across the weekend instead of the usual two 70-lap races held in Townsville in the past.

Winterbottom finished ninth in the opening race last year, and with the shorter sprint races in store this weekend, the three-time Townsville race winner says qualifying pace will be crucial to a successful weekend up north.

The IRWIN Racing pilot sits only 25 points away from fifth place in the championship, and a strong performance over the next fortnight will go a long way to boosting his points tally.

This weekend’s Townsville SuperSprint will see teams again receive five sets of soft tyres for qualifying and the three 39-lap races.

A change to Saturday’s qualifying format for Race 19 will see the two-part knockout system followed by the return of a Top Ten Shootout, instead of the Top 15 Shootout used in Sydney and Darwin. The grids for Race 20 and 21 will still be decided by twin ten-minute qualifying sessions held on Sunday morning.

Track action begins on Saturday with Practice 1 at 10:00am local time, before Race 19 of the championship at 3:40pm. Races 20 and 21 on Sunday will start at 1:05pm and 3:40pm respectively.

This weekend’s action can be viewed both days live on Network 10 from 11:00am, with all sessions simulcast live on Fox Sports 506 and Kayo Sports.

Mark Winterbottom, driver #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore

“Townsville is a track I really enjoy and I have had some success here in the past,” said Mark Winterbottom.

“It’s a shorter format to what we’re used to here with these short 39-lap sprint races compared to the 70 lappers we have done in the past, so qualifying will be crucial for having a good weekend.

“The cars have been turned around quickly since Darwin and the team is feeling good and ready to go again.

“We’re looking to keep our momentum from Darwin going and pick up some good results across the next two weekends.”