Feature Richard Craill July 26, 2022 (Comments off) (78)

INSIGHT: The Bend’s Building Blocks

THE NEWEST circuit on the Supercars calendar might only have five years of history behind it, but just a few main-game visits to the circuit located to the South East of Adelaide has already delivered plenty of memorable moments.

Since its foundation there have been highs and lows, however in 2021 it all gelled and The Bend produced a sensational weekend of Supercars racing, one that it had promised to deliver since it opened.

Here’s some of the key building blocks that have ultimately delivered us to this weekend’s OTR The Bend SuperSprint.  


THE PORSCHE RACING IS GOOD

THE FIRST two Supercars rounds at The Bend were not, if we’re honest, thrillers.

The long, loaded and flowing corners didn’t particularly suit the cars and the (conservative) decision to stick with the hardest of Dunlop’s tyre arsenal did nothing for the on-track product.

Carrera Cup, on the other hand, put on a blinding show from the first time they hit the track. With more aero than a Supercar and a front end that gripped, the cars came to life through the epic turn six-to-ten sequence in particular. But in general, they were good everywhere.

Where the Supercars struggled, the Porsche’s were spectacular. Each Carrera Cup round held since their debut in 2018 has been stunning, with close racing and more passing than you’d often see in one-make Porsche racing.

The lesson, however, was that to deliver good racing at The Bend you needed to have a car with good front grip and a tyre that offered some degradation. It would take a global health crisis to make it happen..  


2020: DISAPPIONTMENT TO DELIGHT

THE START of the 2020 season saw The Bend proudly proclaiming their position as the new home of Supercars pre-Bathurst warm-up, with a two-driver, 500km enduro set for September that year.

Of course, then came Covid-19 and a calendar thrown upside down and turned inside out. The Bend was dropped from Supercars’ revised calendar, with circuit owner Sam Shahin lashing out at Supercars in the media for abandoning plans for a round at the venue.

Of course, it wouldn’t stay that way for long as the ever-changing border situation saw the venue present itself as one of the most logical options for the series to complete their minimum number of events. From the disappointment earlier in the year came delight – and a pair of back-to-back events held on different layouts and different tyre compounds that would change the way Supercars would race there forever.

It was in that variety that Supercars racing stumbled on the right package to have for their product at The Bend.


WILD WEST

The West circuit: The Biff was Brought. PHOTO: Mark Horsburgh / Supercars

ONE of the elements of the double rounds in 2020 was the unique opportunity to race at the same venue but on two different layouts, which is where The Bend’s West Circuit comes in.

The West Circuit, more than 1.5km shorter than the ‘traditional’ International circuit more regularly used, essentially turned an F1 track into a NASCAR Bullring. Okay, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but the West circuit delivered lots of action when it was pressed into use in the second event in 2020.

It was rougher, more old-school Touring Car racing than what the longer circuit delivered – and the W-I-D-E entry into Turn six invited plenty of passing.

Ultimately, the higher tyre degradation of the international circuit won out, but the experiment in the Wild West was worth it and proved both the circuit and the series’ itself were not averse to mixing things up.  


SOFT DECISIONS

THE CHANGE-UP in formats in 2020 also introduced something new to The Bend’s Supercars repertoire: the Dunlop Soft Tyre.

Finally, the heavy Supercars had a front end that would bite into the long sweepers, closer to the way a Carrera Cup Car would. There was also significant degradation, meaning strategy and tyre management would play a significant role in the outcome of the races.

This produced a weekend totally different to the pair before it: The racing was much better, more varied and much less processional. It might’ve taken a few years and a global Pandemic to achieve it, but finally Supercars worked their way into the right format to make the product as world class as the facility itself.


ANDRE’S FIRST WIN

THE MOST recent visit to The Bend Motorsport Park came in May last year and its first wet-weather Supercars event.

Operating as South Australia’s lone round for the first time, the weekend was most notable for delivering Andre Heimgartner his first ever Supercars race win which came in impressive circumstances.

Despite the then Kelly-Grove Racing driver starting Saturday’s Race 9 from pole, it was far from easy: Heimgartner didn’t lead into turn one, with Mostert beating him off the line before Anton de Pasquale also slipped past at turn three.

That pair, however, then when wheel-to-wheel through the ultra-quick turn five, forcing Mostert to run wide and for Anton to fire into Turn 6 too quickly. Just like that, Andre had them both.  

Then he was pinged five seconds following an unsafe release at their pit stop, forcing him to build a significant margin over Mostert to ensure him of the win – all of that on a drying circuit that was far from grippy. But bring it home he did, winning via a hugely impressive drive.  

There were three winners from three races at The Bend in 2021, with de Pasquale and Cameron Waters winning on Sunday.

What will 2022 deliver?

You might also like!