Winterbottom eyeing hour-long 2018 AGP races

Mark Winterbottom

Mark Winterbottom is hopeful organisers will be able to deliver a format including 60 minute pit stop races at next year’s inaugural Australian Grand Prix Supercars championship round.

From next year Supercars will host a full championship round at the Albert Park Formula 1 event for the first time alongside a new six-year deal that will keep the category on the support bill until at least 2023.

In past seasons Supercars has hosted exhibition sprint races after attempts to upgrade its involvement at the Australian Grand Prix were knocked back by Formula 1’s previous owners.

Race formats are set to be determined with Australian Grand Prix Corporation boss Andrew Westacott confirming to Speedcafe.com that slots between 30-60 minutes are being investigated.

Winterbottom hopes organisers are able to schedule hour long races including pit stops, with qualifying sessions held each day.

This year four separate quick-fire qualifying sessions were scheduled on Thursday which set the grid for the entire weekend.

A bespoke pit lane has been built for Supercars in previous years which could be utilised for longer races.

“Hopefully we can get a pit stop in there, that is the one big thing you would want,” Winterbottom told Speedcafe.com.

“The race lengths is the hard part of the Grand Prix. Sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk type of thing.

“Ideally two or a three race format works quite well there, an hour would be good so that would be like a 120km race.

“It is just qualifying that they have got to get right because last time the sessions were held with five minute gaps.

“This year if you were quick on Thursday you dominated the weekend.

“If you have a good car for quailfying you look like a hero. You need to be able to qualify each day, that would be ideal.”

Winterbottom is fully behind the decision to add championship points to the Australian Grand Prix meeting, which he feels adds credibility to the category at Australia’s iconic F1 season opener.

He also believes the announcement will boost attendances.

“We put a lot of effort to go there and it is awesome that they can finally strike up a deal and make it championship points,” he added.

“Having an extra round of the championship is good.

“I don’t think it is going to change how hard you try at that event but it gives the category more credibility. It goes from being an exhibition to a proper race.

“It is good for the sport because when you do try to explain to people that it is an exhibition race, but you are still trying is really confusing for them.

“It puts us on the map as we are now supporting the biggest race of the Australian motorsport calendar and it is now for points.

“The race is actually quite big. When I raced in Brazil they all watch the Supercars races at the Australian Grand Prix.

“They don’t watch Clipsal or the other championship races but they do watch the Australian Grand Prix.

“It is a really big race and the biggest thing about it is the credibility.

“I think we will get more support to watch it. It is a win for everyone.”

Now championship points are on offer, the 2015 champion says teams will have to be more conservative with car changes throughout the event.

“You do go out there and your changes may be more aggressive compared to a championship round, but you will have to be more consecrative next year and be more strategic,” he added.

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