Kiwi racer Shane van Gisbergen heads to this weekend's round of the Supercars Championship with a small advantage over many of his rivals including fellow Kiwi and championship contender Scott McLaughlin.
The Bend Motorsport Park 100km south east of Adelaide will make its debut in the series and most drivers will be learning the track on the run. But Van Gisbergen competed there earlier in the season while driving a GT car and will be able to take some of that knowledge into his Supercars assignment.
"It is a bit of an advantage but the field is so good – all the other drivers will be on it by the end of the first session but it will be nice to get that little head start and hopefully we can tune the car up a lot quicker for it," the 2016 title winner told Radio Sport.
"[Racing in a GT car rather than a V8] is a fair bit different but I learnt about the surface and the types of corners and how they will hold up on tyres and things like that so a fair bit of knowledge and that helps us prepare the cars with the types of set-ups we think will work on a track like that.
"It is pretty much business as usual but thankfully we are back to our standard format and we have three practices I think, so that is more time than usual so we have time to learn the track."
The Bend track serves as the last sprint round before the championship moves to endurance mode and the two Kiwis – McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen – hold a significant but not unassailable lead at the top the standings.
Red Bull Holden racer Van Gisbergen has won three of the last four races in the championship and has closed the margin to McLaughlin to just 89 points.
"It has been going well," Van Gisbergen said of his team's improvement in recent rounds. "The championship battle is close but pretty awesome every week.
"I think we are just slowly starting to understand out new ZB Commodore a bit. We had a really good start to the season and they struggled on the open and flowing tracks and that is what we have got this weekend.
"Hopefully we see the improvement we have done and we can keep that momentum going."
Man to beat: It is impossible to go past Van Gisbergen at the moment.
Dark horse: McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup should be right in the battle but Shell V Power driver Fabian Coulthard is just starting to show some signs of life.
Pressure on: Nissan Motorsport teammates Michael Caruso and Kiwi Andre Heimgartner might be battling for a drive next season in a two-car operation.
Bend Motorsport Park Factbox
Circuit length: 7.7km total, Supercars uses the 4.9km international circuit
Construction began: March 2016
Opened: January 18 2018
Built to FIA Grade 2 and FIM Category A standards
Features drift, kart, rallycross and drag racing facilities as well as an off-road precinct