The ‘grand finale’ is upon us next week and it’s shaping up to be what feels like the biggest one yet.
We’re going in fighting for both the Drivers and Teams Championships on a circuit no one has ever raced before.
Talk about a little bit of pressure…
Jamie “J-Dub” Whincup is currently leading the Championship but hot on his heels is rival Scott McLaughlin with only 30 points separating them.
Not only that, J-Dub’s going into the fight of his career to claim a record seventh championship title.
The preparation into a battle as grand as this hasn’t been ideal for J-Dub after overcoming a mysterious illness which put him in emergency early last week.
Nonetheless, the championship leader is determined to keep on going and put up the fight that so many around the nation are looking forward to.
“I am feeling a lot of tension and stress, combined with the fatigue from a long year, but we are going to prepare as well as we can and push as hard as we can,” J-Dub said.
A brand spanking new track puts a huge spanner in the works but it’s the challenge of a new circuit that the drivers thrive upon… And hey, everyone’s in the same boat so we’re not complaining.
“The thing I love the most is the on-track battles, and this one will be no different,” J-Dub continued.
“I hope all championship contenders have a good, clean race.”
The circuit was designed with the help of Supercars drivers, with J-Dub’s teammate Shane “SVG” van Gisbergen being one of those heavily involved.
The result… A challenging hybrid circuit of city streets and winding roads along the coastline.
“It’s a very tight, twisty circuit that will be very challenging from a driver and setup point of view.
“It’s hard exactly to tell how well the track has been laid out until I’ve had a drive around the circuit but it looks very challenging, especially the downhill sections.”
SVG is willing to take one for the team to help Jamie get across the line for the championship and he’s already pumped for an epic battle between the two leaders.
“It’s going to be great to see those two guys go at it,” he said.
“The priority on car #97’s side of the garage is to do what we can to not only help Jamie win the championship, but to get the Teams Championship title. To achieve that, we’ll need to race two good days and consistent results.”
Like most, SVG is also keen to get out and take on the new track.
“Whenever you go to a new track and town it’s exciting,” he continued.
“It’s always a big challenge for the engineer to come up with a setup that’s going to be reasonably close straight away. Then the driver needs to learn the track as quickly as possible.
“I think from a driver’s point of view it will be awesome and probably even better for the spectators – some of the viewing spots are spectacular.”
Considering his involvement in the design of the circuit, SVG could be the track’s biggest critic and he’s already had a close look at the finished result.
“A few of the corners could have been done a lot better to make more passing opportunities but hopefully I’m wrong. Qualifying will be important in Newcastle,” he said.
“The track looks like it has high grip factor which is what we like as drivers. I think the 250km races here will be super tough. Its 92 laps, that’s a long stint.”
The Newcastle 500 brings Supercars to the coastal town for the first time and sell-out crowds are expected to soak up the sunshine over the three days of competition.
“The town is already buzzing so the atmosphere is going to be awesome.”