1. The fight for the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship is going down to the wire and is set to be one of – if not the closest – on record.
Just six points separates leader Craig Lowndes from Red Bull teammate Jamie Whincup, while 121 points covers leader Lowndes and fourth-placed Will Davison with 600 points still available at Phillip Island and Sydney Olympic Park.
History may be on Lowndes’ side this year too – he has not led the championship with two events to go since 1999, the year he last won the crown.
On the flip side, Whincup has led with two events to go for four of the past five seasons and on each of those occasions has gone on to win the championship. The only year within those five where he was second with two events to go – 2010 – he finished runner-up in the pointscore.
2. If history is any guide, then Craig Lowndes should be looking strong at Phillip Island.
He’s won eight championship races there, more than any other active driver and second only to Mark Skaife’s nine. Lowndes’ tally includes two victories in the Phillip Island 500 with Skaife as his co-driver in 2010 and 2011.
Lowndes also has five pole positions at Phillip Island, more than any other driver in championship history and his qualifying average over 16 events at the circuit sits at an amazingly strong 4.66.
His record at the ‘Island is also far superior to teammate Jamie Whincup, the reigning champion having claimed just two race wins (both at the November event in 2009) at the ‘Island in his V8 Supercar career.
However Whincup has a history of consistency at the famous circuit, finishing runner-up three times in the 500-kilometre endurance race (2008, 2009, 2011) and third overall in 2007, the year he fell an agonising two points short of taking the championship from Garth Tander.
3. The Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford duo of Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison remain a massive chance of giving Ford its first championship victory since 2010 and FPR its first-ever championship win.
However, they will have to re-write the history books in order to win the V8 Supercars Championship.
No driver in history has come from third or lower in the pointscore with two events to go and gone on to win the title.
Winterbottom trails Lowndes by 88 points, while Davison is 121 behind the leader. There are 100 points on offer for the winner of each of the three races at Phillip Island.
4. Team BOC’s Jason Bright will start his 200th Australian Touring Car Championship/V8 Supercars Championship event at Phillip Island.
He becomes just the ninth driver in championship history to achieve the feat, joining an exclusive club that features Russell Ingall, John Bowe, Mark Skaife, Craig Lowndes, Peter Brock, Glenn Seton, Garth Tander and Dick Johnson.
Bright made his championship debut at Symmons Plains in 1997 as a fill-in for Steven Richards at Garry Rogers Motorsport. He joined the championship full-time in 1998 and has competed full-time every year since, except for 2000 when he raced Indy Lights in America.
He has started a total of 440 ATCC/V8SC races with 19 wins, the most recent coming this year at Pukekohe in New Zealand. He’s also racked up 14 pole positions and 45 podium finishes.
Bright currently sits eighth in the V8 Supercars Championship after missing one race on the Gold Coast due to his car being damaged in Friday practice.
Bright is yet to win a V8 Supercar race at Phillip Island – he finished second in Race 1 in 2001 and was runner-up to Craig Lowndes in the single 300-kilometre race in 2003.
5. The 60/60 Super Sprint race format returns to the V8 Supercars Championship at Phillip Island for the first time since Nissan’s historic win at Winton in August and for the last time in the 2013 Championship.
There have been five 60/60 races held so far this season and Jamie Whincup is the only repeat winner (at Hidden Valley and Queensland Raceway). The others have been claimed by Fabian Coulthard (Symmons Plains), Craig Lowndes (Barbagallo) and James Moffat (Winton) – a Ford pilot is yet to win a 60/60 race this season.
6. A new surface laid down at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit late last year should see both the qualifying and race lap records for V8 Supercars tumble this weekend.
Last year Craig Lowndes broke his own 13-year old lap record and left the mark at 1m33.2700s, while he still holds the qualifying record of 1m32.0713s set way back in 2000 during his time with the Holden Racing Team.
As an indication of the improvement the surface provides, the V8 Touring Car Series – which uses ex-V8 Supercars no longer eligible for the Dunlop Series and on a different type of tyre – raced at Phillip Island in September and rookie Ryan Simpson set a 1m33.6832s lap in a six-year-old, ex-Lowndes Triple Eight Falcon BF.
7. The next race victory by a Ford driver will be the 50th championship race win for the FG model Falcon – and take it closer to an all-time record for the manufacturer.
The FG Falcon has claimed 49 race wins in the V8 Supercars Championship and one more will take it to 50 and leave it just one short of the most successful model Ford in the history of the championship – the BA Falcon won 51 V8SC races between 2003 and 2006.
8. Four drivers are making their first V8 Supercar start at Phillip Island in this weekend’s Sargent Security Phillip Island 360, however all have previous race experience at the circuit in other categories.
Phillip Island is the only circuit on the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship calendar that SP Tools Racing’s German pilot Maro Engel has competed on before – he won a race at the ‘Island in Australian GT last year in one of Erebus’ Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 racers.
Chaz Mostert and Scott Pye have both competed in the Australian Formula Ford Championship at Phillip Island – Mostert won the 2009 round and Pye finished fourth – while Scott McLaughlin has competed at the circuit before in the Victorian State Formula Ford Series.
9. The Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander is staring at the very real possibility of doing something for the first time since 2004 – going an entire V8 Supercars Championship season without taking a pole position.
Tander’s best qualifying of third this year came in Texas and he equaled it on the Saturday on the Gold Coast, however one lap speed has proven to be a major thorn in his side in 2013.
He is ranked a lowly-by-his-standards 11th this year of all drivers in qualifying, averaging a grid position of 11.7.
Meanwhile, teammate James Courtney is ranked sixth best qualifier this year (with an average of 7.97) and has out-qualified Tander an impressive 22-9 over the season so far.
Phillip Island is one of only two Australian tracks on this year’s calendar (Winton is the other), where Tander is yet to record a V8 Supercar pole position.
He has been solid in race mode at Phillip Island though, winning the 2007 round on the day he won the championship as well as winning the 500-kilometre endurance race in 2008/2009.
Since 2002 he has strung together 18 top 10 race results from 19 races at Phillip Island – no other driver can boast such a consistently strong record at this circuit.
10. Tekno Autosport’s Jonathon Webb is in the middle of a massive slump aboard the #19 Darrell Lea-backed Commodore.
While he still sits a respectable 12th in the championship, the former Dunlop Series champion has just one top 10 finish to his name over the last 12 races from Townsville onwards.
In stark contrast and immediately prior to his slump, Webb finished in the top 10 in seven straight races at the Circuit of The Americas and Hidden Valley and was actually the top point-scoring driver for the weekend in Darwin.
His qualifying form has also slipped massively – he’s qualified outside the top 20 for nine of the last 10 races.