After months of hype over record lap times, the V8 Supercars teams and drivers will this morning fire their first shots in anger on Bathurst’s new surface.
The V8 Supercars field will hit the track for three practice sessions today, with two 50 minute all-in hit-outs split by a 45 minute session for the co-drivers.
The combination of the resurface and another year’s development with the Next Generation cars has seen widespread predictions of record lap times.
February’s Bathurst 12 Hour saw the circuit’s GT race lap record lowered by a full three seconds, while the Formula 3 benchmark was trimmed by two seconds at Easter.
Last year’s fastest V8 Supercars race lap proved a 2:10.53s, which followed 2:07.8s from Jamie Whincup in both practice and qualifying.
The V8 Supercars records for practice (2:06.80s, 2010), qualifying (2:06.86s, 2003) and the race (2:08.47s, 2007) were all set with the previous generation cars.
“There’s the potential for really fast lap times but it’ll be a matter of getting the car right to suit across the top of the Mountain,” Craig Lowndes, who set the 2010 practice benchmark, told Speedcafe.com.
“Flowing your car up there is where you’ll make the time because you won’t be going any faster on the straights with a new surface.
“People are talking into the 2:05s but we’ll see,” he added of the ultimate predicted laps.
“I think if conditions are good a low 2:06s will be realistic.”
While the new surface will mean teams start practice with a largely clean sheet of paper, Nissan Motorsport’s Todd Kelly says that the change should make practice easier for teams.
“By the look of the track and the grip level you’d expect from it, it’ll hopefully make everyone’s job a little bit easier,” Kelly told Speedcafe.com.
“When the track is down on grip and the conditions are bad, a little problem set-up wise normally becomes a bigger problem.
“If it’s gripped up the cars are really enjoyable to drive and you can tune them more accurately.”
Kelly stopped short, however, of predicting that it has the potential to bring the field closer together than previous years.
“When the grip is there, the guys with the horsepower will still have a good advantage,” he said.
“I’m not sure if it’ll bring the field closer when you bring that into account.”
Many drivers had their first look at the surface during track walks on Wednesday.
Steven Johnson noted that “there are definitely bumps that have gone” which, together with the extra grip, will help improve times.
He suggests, however, that even those struggling in early practice shouldn’t panic.
“If your car is terrible in the morning I don’t think you’ll be wanting to chase it too much as the track will get better and better as the week goes on,” he said.
“If you chase it, nine times out of 10 you’ll be back to square one by race day because the track comes to you.”
Teams will also have to adjust to a new tyre regulation this weekend stipulating a minimum pressure of 17psi.
The rule, instigated on the grounds of safety, will stop teams running exceedingly low pressures as they search for tyre life.