After the longest offseason in recent championship history, the Supercars Championship fired up for the first time in anger this year.
The opening round of the new season takes place where the last one ended, at Mount Panorama in Bathurst.
It is a unique weekend, with Bathurst hosting a sprint race for the first time in 25 years.
That is sprint in the loosest sense of the word, seeing as the two races being held this weekend will each be 250 kilometres (155 miles) long.
Let’s not get bogged down in that though as the most important thing is that 250 kilometres is a quarter of the 1000km that the Bathurst 1000 lasts for.
This creates an interesting situation in which the approach to this race must be completely different to the approach to the Bathurst 1000, yet still respect the challenges this circuit presents.
It’s very easy to become poetic about Mount Panorama, and personify “The Mountain” (as it is known) as something which yields great power over the racing that takes place there.
And not all of that is a load of rubbish.
Let’s come back to the respect that I touched upon earlier, as this is a track that will punish you if you push the limits too far.
Just ask Jamie Whincup, who crashed out of the Bathurst 1000 on lap 33 last year when he attempted to pass Brodie Kostecki on the outside going into The Cutting, something which is an absolute no-no.
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But you will need to push the limits in order to be successful in a 40-lap race where there are fewer opportunities available compared to a 161-lap race, meaning a fine balance needs to be found.
It is going to be a grueling race, equivalent to what is known as a double stint in the Bathurst 1000, and it’ll be interesting to see what strategies and tactics are deployed in what is in some respects unchartered territory for the Supercars.
The two practice sessions held on Friday saw Walkinshaw Andretti United’s Chaz Mostert top the timesheets on both occasions, showing impressive pace.
Mostert is one of six drivers who have been touted as championship contenders.
Cameron Waters is another of those drivers, and the Tickford Racing driver finished just 0.011-seconds behind Mostert in the second practice session.
While both Dick Johnson Racing cars, driven by Anton De Pasquale and Will Davison were off the pace a bit in practice, these sessions are not indicative of pace overall, so there shouldn’t be any alarm bells going off there.
The same goes for Red Bull Ampol Racing, especially with Shane Van Gisbergen showing good pace in the second practice session before going wide at The Chase and aborting his flying lap.
The top two teams should be at the front unless there is a major drama.
Things are still unpredictable going into the Mount Panorama 500, and race one gets underway at 11pm ET on Friday night.