Darwin unknowns, title battle and lap records on S5000 drivers’ minds
S5000 AUSTRALIAN Drivers’ Championship teams and drivers have their eyes firmly fixated on the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown next week as the battle for the 2022 Gold Star comes to a conclusion.
The June 17-19 event represents the first time that Australia’s current fastest racing cars will have tackled the 2.8km Hidden Valley circuit, just 20 minutes outside of Darwin’s bustling CBD.It’s the first time fast open-wheel racers will have raced at the iconic Northern Territory event since 2014.
As well as the battle to decide the champion, another battle is on the cards for next weekend with Hidden Valley’s 21-year-old outright lap record likely to be under threat as well.
“There’s lots to like,” Team Valvoline GRM driver James Golding said of both the circuit and the event itself.
“It’s the atmosphere, great weather. Everyone’s working for it, sweating their ass off so it will be awesome to get these cars up there and see what they can do.”
The 26-year-old from Melbourne has prior Supercars experience in Darwin, having tackled the Triple Crown on two occasions with Garry Rogers Motorsport in 2018 and 2019.
Golding, who currently sits third in the championship and remains firmly in title contention, believes the experience in the 560hp ‘Wings and Slicks’ S5000 will have some similarities to his previous Supercars laps in the Top End.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how they go in the hot weather. They’re a big, heavy race car so it will be about keeping the tyre on the car and seeing what time we can pull out.
“The track has everything: it’s really tricky going into turn one braking zone. There’s tight hairpins and the long straight. Hidden Valley is all about risk versus reward – you’ve got to get it right but if you don’t, you’re done.”
Double Australian Drivers’ Champion Tim Macrow also has prior Darwin form, having raced Formula 3 in the Top End in both 2011 and 2013.
His last visit to the circuit saw him win one race and finish second in the other two, to score second overall for the weekend.
The Victorian knows what it takes to succeed at Hidden Valley, a circuit he loves.
“I love the track. Over the back it’s great, these cars are going to be really awesome over there and I’m really looking foreword to coming down the hill onto the straight,” he explained.
“I think down the straight we’ll be at the 280-285km/hr mark so I don’t think we’ll be too far away from the lap record.”
The Hidden Valley outright lap record stands at 1m02.9268 seconds, set in 2001 by New Zealander Simon Wills in a Reynard 94D Formula Holden.
S5000 cars have less downforce, but more than 200 horsepower more than the V6 Formula Holden’s did in their peak some two decades ago. By comparison, Simon Hodge currently holds the Formula 3 lap record at Hidden Valley (1m05.1101s).
F3 cars have more downforce than S5000s, making them quicker through the faster corners, however are dramatically slower in a straight line than the S5000 field.
It makes the lap record chase a fascinating subplot to the battle for the 60th Australian Drivers’ Championship crown.
Current championship leader and defending champion Joey Mawson is the only driver in the top three to be making his Darwin debut this year, but believes there are multiple options for chasing performance at Hidden Valley.
“It’s hard to say how the track will be and how everyone will perform,” The Sydneysider explained.
“From the past knowledge we have at that circuit in other cars, you can run high or low downforce at Darwin so it will be interesting to see what team choses which aero.
“It’s a very interesting track. The long straight will be perfect for S5000 and there should be some good racing.”
The Merlin Darwin Triple Crown will be held between June 17-19 at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin.
Tickets can be purchased online via www.darwinsupercars.com.au