Team 18 will return to the venue of their first Supercars podium this weekend, with IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom and DEWALT Racing’s Scott Pye heading to the Northern Territory for the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway.
The Supercars Championship will return to racing following a six-week break since their last event at The Bend Motorsport Park in early May.
As a result of the Victorian COVID border closures which saw the postponement of the Winton SuperSprint, the team was forced to head into New South Wales for 14 days prior to heading into the Northern Territory.
The team spent a couple of days preparing their cars at the Sydney branch of Waverley Forklifts, the forklift hire company owned by Team 18 owner Charlie Schwerkolt.
The Darwin Triple Crown will now serve as the debut event for the new Dunlop Super Soft Tyre. Originally slated to debut at Winton, this new tyre has been implemented by Supercars with a softer compound to enable faster lap times but a significantly higher wear rate, bringing another strategy element into the mix.
The back-to-back events in Darwin yielded the strongest results of 2020 for Team 18, as Scott Pye scored the team’s first podium with a third place in Race 13 during the first event featuring a mixed-tyre bank.
Pye showed the raw pace of the DEWALT Commodore by scoring a further two podiums on the second weekend on the soft tyre.
Winterbottom also ran strongly last year with two top-fives and four top-tens across the six races, as the four-time Darwin race winner looks to return to the early season form that sees him sixth in the points standings.
Winterbottom and Pye sit sixth and 11th respectively in the Drivers Championship heading to Hidden Valley, with Team 18 fifth in a competitive teams battle.
Team 18 will hit the track at the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown for three 38-lap races featuring a compulsory pit stop, with cars hitting the track for Practice 1 at 11:25am local time on Friday.
All the action can be viewed live on Channel Seven, Fox Sports 506 and Kayo Sports. Check your local guides for further details.
Scott Pye, #20 DEWALT Racing Holden ZB Commodore
“It’s a circuit where we’ve had good success in the past,” said Scott Pye.
“We had a fantastic couple of weeks there last year when we achieved the team’s first podium, and to repeat that with two more the following weekend was unreal and unexpected at the time.
“Darwin has been up and down for me in the past but going off last year it’s a circuit I’m looking forward to going back to, but we all start back at square one so we’ll put our best foot forward in practice and try and come out with a good qualifying car and race forward from there.
“Hidden Valley is a place in the past where the temperature is so hot that you’ve only got one lap to get your lap done in qualifying, otherwise you’re starting down the back.
“In the race the super soft tyre should offer up some good opportunities to move forward. Strategy-wise for us last year we went early and went long and we managed to make both work.
“The degradation will be a lot higher and it will be easier to overtake, so potentially a late stop and coming home strong could be the key.
“Certainly Darwin is one of my favourite places on the calendar.
“It’s a fantastic circuit and the atmosphere is unique, the fans get behind it and it makes it an enjoyable place to be.”