Additional drivers are set to play a ‘hugely important’ role at this weekend’s Truck Assist Winton SuperSprint courtesy of a new two-day format.
Supercars will only be in action on Saturday and Sunday at the Victorian circuit as part of a trial that intends to condense the racing weekend for teams, cut down workloads and potentially save money.
However, it will likely see teams come under more pressure to ensure the cars hit the track running with less practice compared to a normal SuperSprint round.
Teams will contest two practice sessions with 30 minutes dedicated to additional drivers ahead of a 40 minute primary driver outing before Armor All knockout qualifying begins.
As a result, the Additional Driver Practice carries much more importance for teams as they look to dial cars into the technical Winton circuit prior to Practice 2 where the top 10 will receive a bye to the second part of qualifying.
It will mean that the additional drivers will be under the spotlight more while heaping pressure on teams.
Walkinshaw Andretti United driver Scott Pye, who tested at Winton last week, believes practice will be even more crucial.
“We had a productive test day last week, which will be important with the limited amount of running we get in the new format this year,” said Pye.
“It’s great to have (co-driver) Luffy (Warren Luff) involved there as well. His session first up on Saturday becomes hugely important now, as we will be straight into a practice session and qualifying afterwards.”
Triple Eight boss Roland Dane agrees that the co-drivers session could become more important than first thought when the format was devised.
“I think the two-day race weekend can be a good thing,” Dane told Speedcafe.com.
“It’s appropriate for some places and not for others.
“I’m certainly happy to see how it works at Winton this weekend. The lack of practice time can be good and bad.
“You know it can catch you out if you’re not careful, on the other hand it can give an air of unpredictability to the proceedings because it has an effect on qualifying as well because you’ve got to get into Top 10 in practice.
“It has the potential to put more importance on the co-drivers (Additional Driver) session, to be honest, which is not necessarily in the best interests of everyone, because people have varying co-driver inputs.”
While co-drivers are set to play an important role this weekend, Tickford Racing co-owner Tim Edwards says there will be equally as much pressure on engineers to perform.
“It’s going to put the pressure on the engineers and drivers to maximise that one practice session, it’ll be pretty intense,” Edwards told Speedcafe.com.
“Although we’re only on track two days, normally we spread that over three days, and we’ve tried to condense it and by condensing it ultimately, which puts a lot of pressure on the teams to try and hit the nail on the head straight away.
“It’ll come down to the person that rolls their car out of the truck (quick).
“We always talk about the fact that if you’re competitive on Friday, as you roll the car out of the truck, then you’re going to have a good weekend.
“Well, with one practice session, it will be even more exaggerated this weekend, that if you’re not on the money straight away, you’re going to be on the back foot.”
Supercars will hit the track for the first time this weekend on Saturday with the Additional Driver Practice scheduled for 0920 AEST.