Did you know that AFL Footy Show Star Sam Newman took pole position at the Sandown 500 in 2002? This fascinating piece of trivia is in no way related to the Holden Racing Team but given the Sandown 500 kicks off this week we thought it was a fun fact we would share. And just so you know Newman was driving a Ferrari in the second of two years where the race was run for Nations Cup and production cars.

It is the start of the much anticipated endurance season and the Holden Racing Team welcomes back Warren Luff who is again co-driving with Garth Tander, and Jack Perkins who teams up with James Courtney for a second time.

As the reigning PIRTEK Enduro Cup Champions, Luffy and Tander are eager for a repeat of last year’s performance to claim the trophy for a second year running. If they win the cup again, Luffy will become the only driver to have won the title three times.

Perkins and Courtney are excited at the prospect of actually racing together for 2016’s three endurance events after Courtney was side-lined last year for Sandown and Bathurst with injury. When Courtney did make his return at the Gold Coast 600 the pair won the Sunday race and Perkins claimed his first ever race win in Supercars.

There is an important rule change for the Sandown 500 with the number of compulsory pit stops (CPS) reduced from four to three. The additional CPS was originally introduced in 2013 to help new manufacturers with new multi-valve engines who were struggling to match the fuel consumption of the pushrod engines used by existing competitors. With this no longer a problem, Supercars have reverted to the three stop rule which is expected to open up strategy.

There has also been a change to tyres with only the Dunlop soft tyre compound being allocated for this event. This should make racing a lot more interesting over the course of 161 laps.

FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT

Garth Tander, #2 Holden VF Commodore:
“We’re coming off a reasonably solid Sydney Motorsport Park event and a very good test day, so I’m looking forward to Sandown. Last year we finished fourth there and I feel like we are stronger now than this time last year.”

“It’s going to be a very different race this year because of the soft tyre, last year we used the hard tyre for the 500 so that will make things interesting. The change in compulsory stops doesn’t really affect us as we could already do the race on three stops, it will be all about the tyre.”

“Luffy does an awesome job every year for us. He just jumps in, drives the car with no fuss, contributes to set-up and does important set up work in the lead up to the events that we can trust. He’s a pro and that is why we keep having him back.”

Warren Luff, #2 Holden VF Commodore:
“This is obviously an exciting time of year with the endurance season about to get underway and it’s a great time to be part of the team. For Garth and I we going into it as the reigning PIRTEK Enduro Cup Champions and would obviously love nothing more than to back that up and do it all again. We just have to take each race one at a time but we had a test last week so we are feeling confident.”

“Garth and I have worked really well together over the previous years and we like the same things in the car and our feedback is the same, so from a team’s prospective that obviously helps with the development of the car. When you have two guys in the car you have to take into account feedback from both the drivers, so it helps when you say similar things.”

“I’m very happy with the new car and at our recent test day it was good just to go through the process of pit stops, driver changes and all those sorts of things you don’t normally have to worry about during the year. It was good for Jack and me to get some laps in the car and just get back in the groove of things.”

James Courtney, #22 Holden VF Commodore:
“I’m excited to get to Sandown and it’s a track I’ve had a lot of success at in the past. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve driven there and it’s a street circuit type of track which typically I have, and our cars have, performed well at. Jack had good car speed there last year with Russell as well so I’m really looking forward to racing there.”

“It’s great being teamed up with Jack again, he likes everything the same way I like it and is pretty open minded with the way the seat is and he doesn’t really have to change anything in the car. This is good because there is no need for compromising.”

“Jack’s an experienced campaigner, has done a lot of main game racing and has been driving these cars pretty much the same time as I have. So he’s got a good amount of experience and isn’t a stress-head. He doesn’t get too worried about things so we gel well together. It’s great that we got the win at the Gold Coast last year and we would both like to replicate that again.”

Jack Perkins, #22 Holden VF Commodore:
“It’s really cool to be heading into the enduros with the prospect of driving with James for all three events this year. Russell and I did a good job last year as two co-drivers but James is one of the leading drivers in the category and is on his game at the moment, so I’m really looking forward to doing all three events with him.”

“We’ve done two races together and we finished fifth and first, so we’ve got a good average, but for me it’s about proving that the Gold Coast win wasn’t one hot day. It takes more than that to make a summer. We need to try and continue those strong results. We will be aiming for podiums in all the races and we’d certainly love to win another won.”

“We had a test day last week and it was good to get some laps and work with Robbie and the boys on car 22. It was kind of a dress rehearsal for what we need to do at Sandown. This year there is only the soft tyre for Sandown which means things will be different from last time we raced there, but then we will be back to the hard tyres for Bathurst. So from an engineering point of view there are a lot of things to be on top of, but I have a lot of confidence in the team.”

TRACK FACTS

Track Length 3.1kms
Track Direction Anti-clockwise
Average Speed 164km/h
Top Speed 270km/h
Qualifying Lap Record 1.08.5730s
Race Lap Record 1.09.3416s
Event Format Endurance
Tyre Allocation 28 – Soft Tyre Compound only

HRT