Supercars drivers face 'ultimate challenge'
THE Bend's twists and turns will be what drivers will have to watch out for at the first Supercar round to be held at the South Australian track on the weekend.
Just to the east of River Murray town Tailem Bend, The Bend Motorsport Park is nicknamed "The Bend" and its 4.95km-long international circuit more than lives up to its name with 18 corners.
Supercars drivers already have hailed the track the best permanent motorsport circuit in Australia, with most already having had a steer at private track days or in competition at the Nationals in April.
Matt Stone Racing driver Todd Hazelwood has driven the circuit on two occasions and expects the corners will provide plenty of passing opportunities. However, the Adelaide-born driver said there was one section of the track that would probably be the toughest for drivers to contend with in the inaugural OTR SuperSprint.
"Between turns 7 and 10, it's a triple right-hander, it's quite fast, you're high in fourth gear, there's elevation, the track falls away," he said.
"I think it's similar to dropping across the top of the mountain at Bathurst.
"The track has every combination of corner you can think of.
"It's the ultimate driver's challenge."
Hazelwood said the circuit was "incredible, it's unreal" and hoped the Supercars round would provide a boost to his season.
The 22-year-old has struggled to qualify inside the top 20 so far this year in his rookie season, with his team also in its first year competing in the top-tier of Supercars racing.
A shoulder injury sustained in a racing incident in early July affected his training but he did not expect it to bother him in the car on the weekend.
The team will switch cars, going from his Ford Falcon FG-X back to the Holden VF Commodore he used to win the 2017 Super2 championship title, which he will race for the rest of the year ahead of a switch to the ZB Commodore in 2019.
Hazelwood has not driven the Commodore since that championship-winning race last December and will not get reacquainted with it until practice 1 on Friday morning.
"Poor qualifying results, race after race, it can be a bit demoralising from that point of view, but I'm trying to stay positive and help the team move forward," he said.
"The best result was round two in the season in the wet, it's been a long time between drinks to get a good result."
Hazelwood and wildcard entry Kurt Kostecki will be the only two drivers in the older Commodores, with the rest of the Holden field in ZB Commodores.
"The VF has slightly more rear downforce, that helps in the straight line and not so much in the corners," he said.