Winterbottom set for V8s at Eastern Creek
By Ed Jackson
08:49 AEST Fri Aug 24 2012

Ford star Mark Winterbottom believes this weekend's shortened event at Sydney's revamped Eastern Creek circuit could have a huge say in the V8 Supercars championship race.

The return to Eastern Creek, now called Sydney Motorsport Park, for the first time since 2008 was only confirmed in April this year to fill a gap in the calendar.

The event will be crammed into just two days rather than three with no Friday practice and Winterbottom believes it's stop-gap nature could catch some of his championship rivals out.

The Ford Performance Racing driver, who grew up near Eastern Creek at Doonside, goes into the event 82 points behind championship leader Jamie Whincup and is hoping his rivals might be focused on the upcoming endurance races at Sandown and Bathurst rather than a weekend in western Sydney.

"The enduros are not far away," Winterbottom told AAP.

"It's sort of a race that's a filler but it's still worth 300 points. You're almost focused on the enduros but you've still got to get through this weekend before you can fully focus on them.

"I reckon it's a really important round for momentum, keeping the championship position, all those little things that are going to hurt if you have a bad weekend. I think it's a pretty important one."

A lot has changed at Eastern Creek since Winterbottom used to ride his pushbike down to watch the V8s race at the venue in his youth.

The venue has undergone a $9 million upgrade including improvements to the track and upgraded facilities and Winterbottom says his team will be approaching it as an all-new venue.

The 31-year-old is one of 16 drivers who will line-up on the grid who have raced a V8 Supercar at Eastern Creek, but even data compiled from a test day at the venue last year will be next to useless according to Winterbottom.

"There's new surfaces been laid, there's new profiling of corners, there's run-off on the exits that was never there so although the corners pretty much go the same way and there's the same amount of turn numbers we're treating it as a new track," he said.

"You've got no reference laps, the data (from last year) we won't look at.

"You're starting from scratch.

"The important thing is to have a car that's a good base setup.

"The car that you have needs to be quick as soon as you roll it out of the back of the truck. There's limited time and you'll be struggling if you have to make big changes between sessions."

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