IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom is ready for a month-long extravaganza of back-to-back Supercars weekends, kicking off at this weekend’s BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway.
The Northern Territory trip in the middle of winter has always been a favourite among the drivers, and for Winterbottom it has been a successful venue in the past with four pole positions and four race wins to his name, the last of which came in 2014.
The IRWIN Racing pilot will be looking to make amends on a difficult weekend in 2019 that yielded results of 17th and 12th at a track he views to suit his driving style, as he looks to continue his run of six top-ten finishes in the last eight races so far this season.
The 2.9km circuit is characterised by its long 1.1km front straight while the sweeping bends of the final two sectors requires a car that flows and changes direction very well.
The Darwin Triple Crown will feature the same schedule and format used last time out at Sydney Motorsport Park, featuring three 38-lap races with two sets of soft tyres and three sets of hard tyres allocated for the weekend. A slight change will see teams required to qualify on hard tyres on Saturday, while Sunday’s two qualifying sessions will remain with the option of hard or soft tyre compounds.
The notoriously warm conditions mean tyre conservation and soft tyre strategy will be critical to determining the race results, with a significant lap speed advantage available on the soft tyre but without the durability on offer with the hards.
Winterbottom sits ninth in the championship standings heading into the first of a month of consecutive Supercar weekends, kicking off with the Darwin Triple Crown, followed by the Darwin Supersprint on August 22-23, and then back-to-back weekends on the streets of Townsville in North Queensland.
The drivers and crew arrived in Darwin last Wednesday on a charter flight from Brisbane after a two-week stay on the Gold Coast due to COVID-19 restrictions. The team recently took time out of their preparation to visit one of Darwin’s famous tourist attractions, the Original Jumping Crocodile Cruise on the Adelaide River.
Track action begins on Saturday with Practice 1 at 10:50am local time, before Race 13 of the championship at 3:30pm. Races 14 and 15 on Sunday will start at 1:20pm and 3:30pm respectively. This weekend’s action can be viewed both days live on free-to-air on Channel 10, simulcast live on Fox Sports 506 and Kayo Sports.
Mark Winterbottom, driver #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore
“We are excited to welcome back 4,500 fans each day to Hidden Valley,” said Mark Winterbottom.
“Darwin is one of my favourite races to go to and the Northern Territory Government have gone above and beyond in making this event happen within the situation we are currently dealing with.”
“We have been away from home for over a month now but it’s what we have had to do to keep Supercars alive and racing.
“Hidden Valley has been good to me in the past with four race wins, the last of which in 2014 was on a mixed tyre strategy weekend, so leading into this event where we have the soft and hard tyre compounds to use, hopefully I can carry that knowledge from what worked in the past and try and make that work again.
“It’s a great track and one which suits my driving style, it’s got massively high speeds into Turn 1 which requires big commitment under brakes and then a technical infield section which really tests our finesse and pinpoint accuracy behind the wheel.
“I’m sitting in the top ten in the championship, 50 points catapults me into the top three, so two good weekends in Darwin can really serve us well in this championship.”