Travel chaos for V8 championship
THE closing part of the championship is hectic with three rounds in different States spread over four weekends, and it's demanding on all V8 Supercar teams.
Our busy schedule can be a strain for teams who have to combine constant travel with preparing and maintaining race cars, and in some instances quickly repairing damage from incidents and crashes.
It's a massive logistical exercise moving personnel, team transporters and equipment to and from Tasmania, where we raced last weekend, then head to Melbourne for this week's event at Sandown, and finally going to Sydney for the final round from December 2-4.
This schedule is especially challenging for Queensland-based teams, which include Team Vodafone, Stone Brothers Racing, Dick Johnson Racing, and Paul Morris Motorsports.
Some have had to prepare their cars from temporary facilities in Victoria this week because there wasn't enough time to return from Tasmania to their workshops in Brisbane or the Gold Coast and then make it back to Melbourne in time to race at Sandown.
The situation has been easier this week for the Toll Holden Racing Team, who I drive for, and Ford Performance Racing because they are based in Melbourne and could operate from their workshops.
Sandown has been a venue for production and touring car races since the 1960s, and for many years hosted a 500km endurance race leading up to the Bathurst 1000.
However, since 2008 the 3.1km track has been used for "sprint" rounds in our championship, with Phillip Island taking over the 500km endurance event before Bathurst.
The 2012 championship calendar was announced recently, and Sandown will revert to a 500km endurance race next year, with Phillip Island staging a 'sprint' round.
The program for Sandown this week features practice on Friday, followed by a 120km race on Saturday, and a 200km event on Sunday.
All cars will qualify and race on Dunlop's soft-compound 'sprint' tyres, as at the previous round at Symmons Plains.
I made my championship debut at Sandown back in 2005, and the track layout has two long straights, combined with some tight corners and hard braking points.
In the 2010 championship round there, I won the second of the two races and the result was crucial in eventually claiming the title.
This week's round will be equally important in the battle for the 2012 title between championship leader Jamie Whincup and second-placed Craig Lowndes, both from Team Vodafone.
Whincup is fresh from two race wins at Symmons Plains and leads Lowndes by 194 points.
There are a maximum 600 points available in the final two rounds (Sandown and Sydney), so Whincup is in a strong position and his confidence will be high after his success in Tasmania.
My championship defence this year has been a disappointment, apart from a race win in the opening round in Abu Dhabi.
I finished 10th and 11th in the two races in Tasmania which left me 15th in the points. However, my team and I are working hard to improve at Sandown and Sydney.
Championship points (after round 12)
Jamie Whincup (Holden) 2817
Craig Lowndes (Holden) 2623
Mark Winterbottom (Ford) 2215
Shane Van Gisbergen (Ford) 2201
Garth Tander (Holden) 2187
Will Davison (Ford) 2096
Rick Kelly (Holden) 1977
Lee Holdsworth 1713
Alex Davison (Ford) 1664
Fabian Coulthard (Holden) 1614
James Courtney (Holden) 1467