One of Australia’s most legendary circuits will be graced by the presence of the thunderous touring cars this weekend when the Supercards heads down to Phillip Island for the third round of the 2017 championship.
Having staged countless thrillers in the past, the Phillip Island leg of the Supercars series sees a change in its format for 2017, with two 250-kilometre races comprising the weekend.
It’s the first time since 2003 that the Phillip Island Circuit has held races of this length that aren’t part of the endurance series.
The drivers will face the gruelling challenge of the fast and flowing 4.4-kilometre layout, and the championship battle will continue to heat up.
With points awarded only for Sunday’s race at the carnage-marred Tasmania SuperSprint, Shane van Gisbergen continues to hold his lead in the standings over DJR Team Penske’s Fabian Coulthard.
Coulthard, who broke through in Tasmania for the Ford team’s first race win since 2013, sits a mere 20 points adrift of his compatriot in the Red Bull Holden. Jamie Whincup was able to bolster himself up to third in the standings ahead of Coulthard’s teammate Scott McLaughlin.
A resumption of the spectacular duel between powerhouses Red Bull Holden Racing Team and DJR Team Penske is forecast, with the latter attempting to break the blue oval’s Phillip Island victory drought, which dates back to 2012.
DJR Team Penske will rely upon the success that young McLaughlin has enjoyed at this circuit.
In 2016 the Kiwi swept the two races at Phillip Island in a dominant display with the GRM Volvo, and he also boasts another pair of victories from 2014 in the debut year for the S60 Polestar.
McLaughlin’s teammate Coulthard has thrice stood on the podium at the Island, the last time at last year’s event for Ford.
While the onus is on the in-form team in DJR Team Penske to continue flexing their muscles, Red Bull can never be ruled out – they’ve been the most consistent team across the entire roster of circuits in the championship.
Triple Eight can depend upon 11-time Phillip Island race winner Craig Lowndes to support their main two combatants in van Gisbergen and Whincup, though there will be the expectation for the veteran to at last kickstart his campaign in the Vortex Commodore.
The aforementioned disaster at Symmons Plains did predictably cause considerable damage to much of the grid, and those who had major rebuilds ahead of them over the Easter period have made a mega effort to prepare their respective machines for Phillip Island.
The significantly damaged Tekno Autosports Commodore has undergone a monumental turn-around for the upcoming round, while Will Davison himself has been declared fit to race after initially having been suspected of breaking his back in the crash.
Similarly, but less severely, Nissan’s Rick Kelly has also been cleared of any major damage to his leg after the 2006 champion’s part in the crash with Davison’s Holden.
There will be plenty to glean from the two demanding 250-kilometre races ahead.
Will DJR Team Penske be able to capture the lead in the standings, or can the Triple Eight Red Bull-Vortex triumvirate put a stop to the rising stars?