It’s the race that still gives us goose bumps… The Newcastle 500.
A race weekend where, last year, we were out for the count on the Saturday night, before Jamie “J-Dub” Whincup took a record seventh championship come Sunday night.
Priceless, heart-racing stuff, really.
It was J-Dub’s never say die attitude that summed up the Newcastle 500 in 2017 for us, and it’s how we’re approaching the grand finale this year.
While we’re (selfishly) hoping the championship doesn’t come down to the final lap again, we’re aware that it most definitely, 100 per cent is going to be a crazy week… And even crazier to think that a Kiwi will win the championship, how dare they!
Shane “SVG” van Gisbergen trails main rival Scotty McLaughlin by a mere 14 points, from all the races, kilometres and (lack of) seconds we chased this year, we’re less than a race between us.
So, how do we get the job done with as little commotion as possible?
“We just need to have two good days, that’s all we have to do,” said SVG.
“We need to focus on ourselves, qualify near the front and then try and have two good days on the podium.
“I’m sure they (DJR Team Penske) will be there, they don’t make many mistakes but as long as we’re ahead, we’ll be okay.”
After everyone at Red Bull Holden Racing Team secured the Teams’ Championship in New Zealand for the ninth time, SVG is confident he’s got the best in the business behind him.
“I’ve got the best team behind me and I know I’ve got everything there to make it happen.”
And SVG is in good company with seven-time champion J-Dub and Supercars legend and team mate Lowndesy in his corner…
“Firstly, I have to worry about myself and be up the front ahead of everyone but having those two team mates in Jamie and Craig to back me up is going to be super important and hopefully they can get in front of Scotty (McLaughlin) and take some points off him.”
The 2.6-kilometre street circuit is one of a kind with incredible elevation up Watt Street before winding down along the coastline – the kind of circuit that’s perfect to host a grand finale.
And while qualifying high is always important, it’s imperative to a Newcastle 500 win…
“It’s pretty much the most important qualifying track of the year, because it’s so hard to pass,” said SVG.
“Everyone in the field is so tight now and the track has limited passing opportunities, so you just have to be up the front and if you’re not, you have to come up with a strategy to get yourself in the clean air.
“It’s an awesome track to drive but getting around someone is pretty difficult.
“Our cars really suit the street tracks, and I seem to suit them as well, being aggressive and always on the limit.
“I also think the secret is in our shocks, the SACHS shocks, they’re always good in that they love the bumps, take them nicely and then they settle really fast, so we’ve got a pretty good advantage in that area.
“This car has been a huge step forward in most areas and on a street track where you need good balance and good handling, so having that confidence on a track where you need 110% commitment is going to be great.”
So, what are we most excited about going into the Newcastle 500? Aside from chilling out on our epic super yacht on pit lane… Joking!
Well there’s nothing better than a championship battle that goes down to the wire, especially when it’s SVG chasing the title – because if it’s going to be a Kiwi, it’s better off being our Kiwi.
“I’m pretty nervous about it, but also excited,” SVG continued.
“We’re all working hard to be prepared for Newcastle. We were really quick there last year, so that gives us a bit of confidence.”