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DEWALT Racing’s Scott Pye and IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom are excited by the return of 250km sprint races at this weekend’s NTI Townsville 500.

This weekend’s format will see the return of two 250km races on the Reid Park Street Circuit, with refuelling brought back into play for the first time since the opening round at Mount Panorama in February.

A minimum 120L fuel drop will come into effect, with two compulsory pit stops required in each race to change a minimum of two Dunlop soft compound tyres.

Another change from the recent rounds will see the grid determined for each race by a single 15-minute qualifying session, with the top ten progressing to the shootout to decide the first five rows.

Winterbottom will be looking to follow on from a speedy weekend in Darwin, which yielded results of 22nd, 5th and 7th. Likewise, Pye demonstrated strong qualifying and race pace at Hidden Valley, but combatted several issues throughout the weekend to score finishes of 21st, 13th and 16th in Races 12-14 of the championship.

The streets of Townsville were a strong battleground for Team 18 last year, with Pye nabbing six top ten finishes from six races, starting outside of the top ten in every race of the back-to-back events, while Winterbottom also scored two top ten finishes.

Winterbottom and Pye sit sixth and 13th 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 NTI Townsville for two 88-lap races featuring two compulsory pit stop, with cars hitting the track for Practice 1 at 10:50am 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.

QUOTES
Scott Pye, driver – #20 DEWALT Racing Holden ZB Commodore

“At Darwin we had fast cars and we were back to the speed we had there last year, so it was nice to go back there and repeat that, and to have both cars so quick with Frosty getting a couple of results on Sunday which was awesome for the team, but a shame we weren’t able to capitalise on the pace we had,” said Pye.

“For sure it gives us confidence going into the next event feeling like we’ve turned a corner and we’re in a stronger position than we were prior to Darwin.

“The races this year are longer, so we have more opportunity in the races to move forward, but the easiest time to overtake cars is in qualifying, so we need to find some pace there and hopefully qualify well and capitalise on the speed we’ve got in the longer races.

“Townsville is a tough street circuit but a permanent layout as well, it’s close to the city and the fans really get behind it. I’ll never forget the first time I went there, coming into the last corner on my warm up lap and seeing all the crowd in the grandstand as you come to start the race.

“Last year our weakness in qualifying was our straight-line braking, so we want to improve on that as there’s a couple of big stops around the lap, especially Turn 2 and the last corner.

“It’s a tricky spot where you’re coming out of a long right-hander and then braking just as you straighten the car, it’s easy after a fairly long lap to make a small mistake and lose everything you’ve worked for. There’’s plenty of kerb compliance, you have to take heaps of kerb through the chicanes but for me the big one is having a good braking car.”

“The long races up there are high-attrition, it’s 88 laps on both days so it’s going to be tough considering we’ve been doing sprint races in the past couple of years, so I’m excited for that.”

SCHEDULE – NTI TOWNSVILLE 500 – JULY 9-11
** ALL TIMES AEST, UTC +10:00

FRIDAY
Practice 1 – 10:50am (40 minutes)
Practice 2 – 3:05pm (40 minutes)

SATURDAY
Qualifying (Race 15) – 11:15am (15 minutes)
Top Ten Shootout – 1:05pm
Race 15 – 3:45pm (88 laps)

SUNDAY
Qualifying (Race 16) – 10:15am (15 minutes)
Top Ten Shootout – 12:05pm
Race 16 – 2:45pm (88 laps)