Shane van Gisbergen believes that the challenge of Supercars’ first round at The Bend Motorsport Park will lead to a higher than usual rate of off-track excursions in Friday practice.
Van Gisbergen has experienced the circuit during the Australian Endurance Championship (Australian GT) round when The Bend hosted its first national level meeting in April.
On that occasion, the AEC field started on the 7.77km GT layout before reverting to the 4.95km International layout which the Virgin Australian Supercars Championship will use.
David Reynolds and Garth Tander also entered that race, Jamie Whincup has cut demonstration laps at the track, and several more drivers sampled the circuit during a support category test last week.
Van Gisbergen, however, is predicting that the highly technical profile of the circuit will catch out a number of drivers on the first day of Supercars action.
“I think within five or six laps, everyone will be up to speed,” the New Zealander told Fox Sports’ Supercars Trackside when asked if his GT experience gives him an advantage over those without.
“Everyone will be on the pace pretty quickly, but there’ll still be more mistakes than usual (because it is a) new track.
“Here, being so open, there’s plenty of time to exploit the limits so you’ll see a few drivers going off tomorrow, and a big challenge is the wind; it’s so variable here, and every lap it changes.
“I felt it so much in the GT car, (the wind was) very inconsistent, so that’s going to be a big challenge as well because it’s such an open plain here.”
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver also suggested that the layout will make passing difficult, particularly in light of the use of the harder compound tyre.
“Unfortunately, we’re on the hard tyre,” he noted.
“It’s conservative and safe this weekend but it just overheats so easy so when you’re following someone it overheats and you spread out.
“Hopefully we do see some passing, there are some spots, but it will be very tough.”
The track surface, which van Gisbergen described as “smooth”, could also present a challenge according to his compatriot and Shell V-Power Racing Team driver Fabian Coulthard.
“It looks pretty slippery,” said Coulthard on Supercars Trackside.
“The surface doesn’t look like it’s got a whole heap of grip so it’ll be interesting but obviously we’ll get a feel of it tomorrow.”
Practice 1 at the OTR SuperSprint starts tomorrow at 1045 local time/1115 AEST.