Skaife: Supernight could decide championship
TORN tyres, a slippery track and the first night race in 21 years - Saturday's Sydney Supernight is going to be epic.
Supercars legend Mark Skaife believes the championship battle between Ford's Scott McLaughlin and Holden's Shane van Gisbergen could be decided because the race will be so unpredictable.
Night racing is returning to Australia for the first time since 1997 at Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday.
At 300km it is the longest single driver race in the history of Supercars.
With 300 points up for grabs in one race, McLaughlin can extend his lead on van Gisbergen.
"It is one of the most difficult tracks in Australia to set up for,'' Skaife said.
"It is a really important race meeting,'' Skaife said.
"I don't want to oversell it but I reckon SMP in the night-time, for 300 points in one race, is the most risky race of the year. It is the same points weighting as Bathurst for just one race.
"It could decide the championship and it will make the battle that we have between Shane and Scott very interesting.
"It is one of the most difficult tracks in Australia to set up for.
"And that is with UV and in summer. It probably is the worst we go to for tyre degradation per kilometre. It is going to be torturous on tyres.
"It is also so difficult to set the car up for because the track conditions are always changing. It could be three or four degrees out there next Saturday night. There will be a huge difference in climate (to the February SMP test day) and then there will be the difference of having zero UV.''
Skaife said the dark and the cold could level the field and put both McLaughlin and van Gisbergen at risk of suffering a championship-changing blow.
"They will be going in blind,'' Skaife said.
"It will be a level playing field as the run there at the start of the year will be irrelevant. With just one race - a poor qualifying performance, a mechanical failure or a mistake, could wipe them out.
"There is double stacking and bad strategy too. On a weekend of racing you can recover, but when there is one race for 300 points, there will be huge implications.''
Skaife said finding grip would prove a challenge.
"The track will be completely foreign in winter and at night,'' Skaife said.
"They will really have a job trying to get their cars to work in cold, slippery winter conditions. The engines will be great, brakes will be great but the tyres will be the challenge. They will be slipping and sliding around at night. They will have to generate the tyre temperature and it will be completely different to a hot summer's day.''