This weekend’s Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint is the first Supercars event at Symmons Plains since 2019 — and it didn’t take long for the drama to start to unfold.
During practice 1 on Saturday, Tim Slade was forced to park up as his right rear wheel became dislodged, causing a red flag.
Later in qualifying, Shane van Gisbergen stunned the field with a track record 50.492 second lap to claim pole position.
“That could be the most emphatic statement he’s made all year, and he’s won five races in a row,” Mark Skaife said in commentary on Fox Sports.
“Three tenths of a second. That’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen that.”
His time was a whopping 0.3325 seconds clear of second-placed Cameron Waters, who was only one-tenth quicker than Mark Winterbottom down in eighth.
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RACE CENTRE: Tasmania SuperSprint
Cameron Waters was again the fast man in second practice, with the top 10 covered by just 0.2s.
Like he did earlier in the morning, Waters fired to the top at the death, with the #6 Monster Energy Mustang again the class of the field.
As it was in Practice 1, Waters was shadowed by a Shell V-Power Racing Team Mustang, with Anton De Pasquale just 0.0208s adrift.
Championship leader Shane van Gisbergen was 0.0561s behind in third in his #97 Red Bull Ampol Racing entry, with Tickford Racing’s Jack Le Brocq again impressing to fourth.
Positions one through nine were covered by just 0.17s, with early pace-setter Chaz Mostert fifth ahead of Mark Winterbottom and Scott Pye.
Cars will be back on track for Race 6 starts this afternoon at 4.25pm.
SATURDAY SCHEDULE (all times AEST)
Practice 2: 11.25am — 11.55am
Qualifying: 1.25pm — 2.10pm
Race 6: 4.25pm — 5.25pm
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At the front of the grid, one driver has been doing all the winning, but that doesn’t mean the margins behind are too large to overcome.
A return to Tasmania for the first time in two years, and the first race meeting in four weeks, means there’s every chance teams have tweaked their cars, and drivers have sharpened.
Ahead of this weekend’s event, which will feature three 44-lap races, Supercars.com has listed nine key storylines which will play out across the weekend.
SVG’S SHOT AT HISTORY
Championship leader Shane van Gisbergen could make history as the only driver in Supercars history to win the first seven races of a season.
Van Gisbergen has won five in a row to start 2021, and should he win the first two races of the weekend, he would surpass two major names.
Allan Moffat and Mark Skaife both won the opening six races of the season in 1977 and 1994 respectively; no one has ever won the opening seven.
Van Gisbergen’s current win streak of six, which dates back to the 2020 Bathurst 1000, matches similar feats by Moffat, Dick Johnson, Jim Richards, Skaife, Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and Scott McLaughlin.
Only Whincup and Lowndes have been able to win more than six consecutive races; Whincup (seven in 2008) and Lowndes (eight in 1996).
CAN ANYONE STOP TRIPLE EIGHT IN TASSIE?
Jamie Whincup is the most successful driver in history at Symmons Plains with 12 race wins to his name, the most recent of which came in 2018.
Red Bull Ampol Racing has been the dominant force at Symmons Plains for much of the past decade; the team has won 11 of the 14 races held at the circuit since 2014.
Van Gisbergen won the most recent race at the circuit on the Sunday in 2019.
FORD’S WIN DROUGHT
Ford drivers have not won a race since Cameron Waters won the penultimate race of the 2020 season at The Bend on September 27.
Saturday’s opening race in Tasmania will mark 202 days, or six months and 21 days, since a Ford driver last won a race.
WHINCUP MOVES UP IN THE RECORD BOOKS
This weekend also marks Whincup’s 243rd round start, bringing him level for sixth on the all-time list with Todd Kelly.
Whincup’s enduro co-driver Lowndes holds the record for most round starts at 298.
NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT
This weekend will also see the debut of the new split, three-part qualifying system. The format will first be used on Saturday.
The first part of qualifying will see the field split in two groups on alternating garage order. That means one car per two-car team will take part in each five-minute session.
The top eight from each session will continue, while the bottom four from each session will be locked in positions 17 through 24.
The remaining 16 cars will roll out for the 10-minute Q2 segment, with the quickest 10 fighting for pole in the 10-minute Q3 segment.
On Sunday, there will be a split, single-segment format for both races; the same groupings will be used for two eight-minute sessions to set the grid.
— This originally appeared in Supercars.com and was republished with consent
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