Davison: Townsville 500 has makings of Supercars strategy battle

Will Davison, pictured at the 2022 Townsville 500, has highlighted strategic variation as a talking point this weekend. Picture: Supplied

Will Davison, pictured at the 2022 Townsville 500, has highlighted strategic variation as a talking point this weekend. Picture: Supplied

There is the potential for a serious strategy battle based on how the Gen3 Supercars will perform at this weekend’s NTI Townsville 500, according to Will Davison.

For the first time since the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship season-opener, drivers are back onto a somewhat more typical street circuit this weekend, and will also face refuelling races for the first time since competition kicked off in Newcastle in March.

The latter alone opens up the potential for greater strategic variation with two compulsory pit stops in each 88-lap race around the Reid Park Street Circuit, during which each entry must take on an aggregate of at least 100 litres of fuel.

However, Davison highlighted another factor which is set to be at play this weekend, namely tyre degradation.

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“[There are] two longer type of races, 250km, which is something I really enjoy,” said the Shell V-Power Racing Team driver.

“We’re doing a lot of sprint races now but when we go endurance racing – multiple pit stops, fuel stops – that strategic element is exciting.

“I think the street track itself is bumpy, it’s got a little bit of everything – quite a flowing middle sector, where you need a car to flow through the chicanes [and] clear the kerbs nicely – but a couple of really slow-speed sections in the first sector, and the last sector where there’s good passing opportunities.

“[There is] obviously also a balance element that’s very, very hard to get the car to look after its tyres.

“You get a lot of brake locking, you get a lot of wheelspin, and that can really punish you – you can make mistakes easily – so I enjoy that.

“I think we’re going to get massive deg this year on this track and I think there’s going to be heaps of different potential strategies that can win the race, so I can’t wait for that.”

After four sprint events in a row, the NTI Townsville 500 in fact represents the start of a run comprised predominantly of refuelling races all the way to the end of the season.

That was a point noted also by the boss of drivers’ and teams’ championship-leading team Erebus Motorsport, Barry Ryan, who identified the longer races as higher-stakes given the larger quantities of points on offer.

Teams will this weekend be back on the soft compound, the middle step but also now the most commonly used in Dunlop’s Supercars range, and they have also been granted an extra set of brake pads per car to get through practice, qualifying, potentially Top 10 Shootouts, and 500km of racing around the Reid Park Street Circuit.

However, the drivers will also have their endurance tested, notwithstanding that they have just come off an event at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway.

“Being up in tropical North Queensland, it’s obviously a beautiful time of the year, but it’s still quite warm,” observed Davison.

“It’s obviously nothing like the humidity of Darwin, where we see just insane temperatures in the car, but it is still very physical from a driving point of view.

“It’s very bumpy, it’s quite a lot of load on your body, so I would say it’s one of those events that isn’t the hottest we go to, but it’s warm, and it’s really, really physical.

“You definitely feel it, Saturday night, there, and you’ve got to recover, come back, and do it again, Sunday.

“It really is quite a physical challenge inside the car, and a mental challenge.

“I love that element; it’s tough on us all but it’s a very rewarding one to win.”

Davison has one win at Townsville, back in his Ford Performance Racing days in 2013, when he memorably bumped the wall while performing a celebratory burnout in the #6 FG Falcon in what was his only error of the race.

The Gen3 S650 Mustangs which Ford teams now field will undergo a parity adjustment ahead of this weekend’s action, with changes to the rear wing and boot spoiler designed to address a downforce disparity under brakes.

Practice 1 starts on Friday at 10:10 local time/AEST.

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