After three months in lockdown as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Team 18 are pumped and ready to hit the track once again. IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom and 11 crew have arrived at Sydney Motorsport Park for the return of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
As the series turns to action, Team 18 owner Charlie Schwerkolt wishes to thank all of our crew, our loyal partners and our fans for sticking by the team and showing their tremendous support through this challenging time, and looks forward to seeing the cars back on track as the season resumes.
This weekend will see a raft of changes brought on by the reduction of personnel permitted at the event and to create the best experience for the tv-only audience set to tune in from all around Australia and world wide.
In preparation for the event, all travelling team personnel were tested for Covid-19 in the lead-up to the event. Following the test organised by Supercars medical delegate Dr Carl Le, all team members tested negative and were cleared for travel. All teams will stay in the adjacent hotel to the circuit to ensure no exposure to the public, while team garages have been spread out throughout the pit lane, with further processes in place to adhere to government social distancing regulations.
This weekend will see three 33-lap sprint races contested. Race 7 of the championship will be held on Saturday, with Races 8 and 9 on Sunday. While only two races were completed at the season opener on the streets of Adelaide, Races 3, 4, 5 & 6 originally scheduled for the Australian Grand Prix have been officially counted in the schedule due to Qualifying taking place on Thursday at Albert Park.
Among the changes to the race format for this weekend will see no refuelling take place during the race and one compulsory pit stop for at least two tyres. However, the pit crew will only have two rattle-guns at their disposal for tyre changes. This brings an element of strategy into the mix whereby a stop for four tyres will add significant time to the pit stop, but may bring an advantage in performance on this highly-degrading surface.
The three-part qualifying format for Race 7 will see the slowest four drivers eliminated from part one before the remaining 20 drivers contest part two, before the top 15 drivers from Part 2 will enter a Top 15 Shootout to set the grid for the race on Saturday afternoon.
The grid for races 8 and 9 on Sunday will be set by back-to-back qualifying sessions on Sunday morning.
Winterbottom is encouraged by the team’s performance from the opening two hit-outs of the season as they return to Sydney Motorsport Park for the first time since the SuperNight race in 2018.
Stay tuned to Fox Sports 506 and Kayo Sports for all the action live from Sydney this weekend.
Charlie Schwerkolt, owner Team 18, IRWIN Racing and DEWALT Racing
“It’s quite surreal that we are going racing again after almost four months on the sidelines due to the outbreak of COVID-19,” said Charlie Schwerkolt.
“It’s even weirder that I’m not going to be there as team owner, but these rules have been put in place across the board to ensure Supercars can safely return to the track which is a positive for everyone.
“The changes to race formats, data acquisition and the government restrictions mean that each team is represented by only 11 people per two car team, plus the drivers, which is a significant reduction to what you usually see throughout the pit lane.
“I think that it’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out and I feel with rule changes and strategy implications that there is an opportunity and a strength that could favour smaller teams including Team 18.
“I’ll be watching Scotty and Frosty racing from my man-cave on the Gold Coast and cheering them on with a few sponsors and friends which I’m really looking forward to, it will be interesting to see what happens.
“I wish the team all the best down in Sydney this weekend, I hope we have a good run and pick up some valuable championship points for both cars as the Supercars season resumes.”