Supercars are on display on the Surfers Paradise grid for the first time in three years, and a solo race is taking place on the streets for the first time in over a decade. The Boost Mobile Gold Coast 500 and Team 18 will be crucial this weekend. has a lot of it.
Drivers Mark Winterbottom and Scott Pye have made almost 900 combined race starts and their knowledge can be the difference between agony and ecstasy on a concrete street circuit.
The Gold Coast will host a single-driver race for the first time since 2009, but all were held on the old 4.5km circuit, so this weekend will be the first for the current 2.9km circuit, which has only seen endurance races.
With a new format consisting of two 250km events, this year will be the longest solo race ever held on the tough street circuit, meaning riders will be pushed to the limit and experience will count.
Only seven of the 25 drivers started single races on the Gold Coast, but only one of them won, and that was Winterbottom.
The man known by the nickname ‘Frosty’ has been very consistent for Ford Performance Racing in 2009, finishing in the top 2 in all four 34-lap stages that combined the two 300km races.
Winterbottom won the last solo race 13 years ago and also took the top step with Richard Lyons in 2011, his last win on Queensland streets.
But he remained a constant threat on the track, scoring 10 podiums and tied for joint second on the Gold Coast all-time list with Shane van Gisbergen.
The veteran will also talk about a small milestone this weekend with the team he has raced for since 2019, and hopes the occasion and his previous success will take the #18 car forward.
“50 rounds with the team has gone very quickly, but that’s why I love it and that’s why I’m here for another two years,” Winterbottom said.
“I think the Gold Coast is a good opportunity for us to do well, people haven’t been there since 2019, so even though it’s old in a way, it’s new.
“It’s been a good track for me in the past so I’m looking forward to it.”
Winterbottom is a man who knows how to perform on the Gold Coast and has identified that skill, commitment and confidence will be the keys to unlocking it with the longer format.
“The track is always very difficult to get right. It’s a high-commitment track that rewards that big lap,” he said.
“If you get it right it’s when your mirror hits the wall and when you get it wrong it’s when your door buckles, it’s millimeter perfect but it’s always a tough spot.
“Qualifying is everything because it determines track position, but this year our race length is quite long. 85 laps, one driver, it will be qualifying and then two parts until the weekend.”
Winterbotham’s team-mate Pye is determined to enjoy an accident-free weekend after rescuing some points from the Bathurst battles where he and Tyler Everingham were held back by early damage.
Surfers Paradise hasn’t been the happiest hunting ground for the No. 20 driver, with just three top-10 finishes at the circuit and in 2014 he was disqualified for a technical violation.
But Pye can take confidence from his latest visit to the track, where he battled at the sharp end for Walkinshaw Andretti United, recording a pair of top-five finishes.
He hopes the No.20 car’s promising pace at Townsville can translate to another Queensland street circuit this weekend and expects the new format could lead to a high level of withdrawals.
“I’m really excited to be back at the Gold Coast 500, it’s an event I’ve loved in the past and the nature of the track is extremely exciting. Curbs, Walls is a high-risk track that rewards commitment,” Pai said.
“The GC 500 will be a tough race, 250 kilometers on both days, meaning I’m sure there will be a high level of attrition. It will require physical effort from the drivers, which is why the sport is so unique on Sunday.
“Our cars are pretty good on street circuits, we were really strong in Townsville, so I’m really excited to go back to a similar track and see what we can do. I feel very confident going into the weekend.”
An important moment for the 18 team will be the defense of seventh place in the team championship, just 39 points behind Brand Jones Racing.
Winterbotham and Pye will be hoping their experience counts when the 2019 Boost Mobile Gold Coast 500 gets underway this weekend.
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