New V8 Supercars head into the unknown in Adelaide

Mark Winterbottom's Pepsi Max FPR Falcon rides the kerbs in the Senna Chicane

Mark Winterbottom’s Pepsi Max FPR Falcon rides the kerbs in the Senna Chicane

The new-generation V8 Supercars will endure their biggest test yet this afternoon when  they embark on the first 250km leg of the gruelling Clipsal 500 Adelaide.

Component reliability and the way that the cars will handle full fuel stints on the bumpy, kerb-laden, street circuit loom as major unknowns following the wholesale changes to the technical package year-on-year.

Although five track sessions were held for the full field on Friday, all were rapid-fire affairs that saw cars in and out of pitlane for set-up changes in the search for single lap speed. The inability to make quick roll-centre adjustments with the independent rear suspension systems in the new cars further reduced the potential for long runs during the 30 minute hit-outs.

A 17 lap unbroken spell from Craig Lowndes in Practice 3 was the only genuine attempt at a mini-race simulation, with no other cars completing more than 10 consecutive laps. The largest Friday ‘stints’ for front-row starters Shane van Gisbergen and Mark Winterbottom were just nine and four laps respectively.

With the fuel economy racing seen in Adelaide over the last three seasons unlikely to continue following a move back to bigger fuel tanks this year, Van Gisbergen says that all eyes will be on the teams’ ability to make the tyres live.

“People have run on old tyres but not 30 or 40 laps consistently so it’s going to be interesting to see what approaches people take,” he said.

“Last year’s sort of tyre strategies won’t be the same with the different style of tyre. It’ll be interesting to see how people approach it and how well the tyres hang on.

“I think there’ll be a lot of passing. It’s a good track for it and the cars brake quite well. I think we’ll see a bit of action.”

The most common handling imbalance throughout pitlane on Friday, and largely since the beginning of Car of the Future testing last August, was the instability of the rear-end on turn-in.

While teams will inevitably get their heads around how to make the most of the technically superior 2013 rule package as the season progresses, Winterbottom believes that the lively nature of many of the cars this weekend will make for two entertaining races.

“People can tell you they’re going to have a demon car for 30 laps but there are a lot of cars with the rear sliding and moving around a lot,” he noted, stressing also that his own car is among the unruly.

“With that will probably come better racing because when one guy wobbles then next one will attack. Time will tell. But it looks like something that everyone is trying to work on.

“When you complain about your car and you’re P2, then there are 26 blokes who don’t like their car as much as you do.”

An oil-fire under the bonnet of Maro Engel’s Mercedes in qualifying was, remarkably, the only major mechanical issue seen on Friday, but the newness of the new cars and, in particular, their transaxle drivelines, still have many predicting a relatively low finishers count come the end of the first 78 lap race.

“Reliability is such an unknown,” said Winterbottom, noting particularly the newness of the Nissan and Mercedes packages. “Reliability is probably the area that will win it or lose it for some.”

A morning warm-up will be held for the V8 Supercars competitors at 0845 local time ahead of Race 1 at 1435.

See below for Speedcafe.com’s Clipsal 500 Adelaide Race Guide

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