The introduction at the start of the year of the Car Of The Future certainly shook up the established pecking order in V8 Supecars when the new season kicked off in Adelaide in March.
In 2012, only two teams, Triple 8 and Ford Performance Racing, had won races. So when new names appeared on the winner’s top podium step early on, there was some hope that the duopoly had been broken.
As we come to the last race then, of 2013, it’s perhaps a bit disturbing that the same two teams, and the same four drivers, are at the top of the pointscore. This time all four drivers are in contention, with just two races to go.
Jamie Whincup leads his team-mate Craig Lowndes by just 20 points. The pair of Triple 8 drivers have to be favourites to win the title – really it’s theirs to lose, but Ford’s Mark Winterbottom is not out of it, 124 points behind Whincup, with 300 points available over the two races. Will Davison in fourth is still a mathematical chance to win, but really, his job will be to try to spoil things for the Holden pair leading.
But before that, it’s been a year of firsts. First wins for Fabian Coulthard, Chaz Mostert, James Moffat, Scott McLaughlin, and David Reynolds. First time other than Holden and Ford have been seen in V8 Supercars, with Nissan and AMG joining the grid. First time racing in North America.
But despite all that, the same blobs of cream rose to the top and this weekend it’s crunch time. Possibly all too literally. Sydney’s Homebush Bay circuit takes in the roads around the Olympic Stadium. They’re tight, narrow and lined with concrete. There are kerbs for the jumping and uneven surfaces to contend with. This race weekend traditionally brings carnage so just finishing can be a chore. There are two races each of 250 km this weekend. Race one is Saturday afternoon. It’s called a ‘twilight’ race, but this close to the equator, when the sun goes down it gets dark about 10 mintues later. It’s due to start about 5PM local and will finish probably about 6.45 to 7.00 – the sun will still be up. Sunday’s race is mid-afternoon.
I expect Davison to be out of contention at the end of the first race – he’s just too far back, which is a shame or him as he’s really quite a nice guy. I’d hate to be in Roland Dane’s shoes. He’s the head honcho at Triple 8 and has his two drivers vying for the title. It’s all too easy for one to be seen to be favoured.
Which brings us to pit stops. There will be two in each race. Australia’s V8 Supercars have a rather idiotic rule that two cars must share a pit boom. In the event of a Safety Car, pit lane remains open and the leading car from each pair gets first crack at the pit stop. The second car must queue in pit lane, losing vital track position.
This rule has cost Craig Lowndes at least one Bathurst 1000 in the last couple of years, and a pile of placings over the last few seasons. He’s pretty bitter about it, one would expect, under that laid-back, smiling facade.