Nancy Knapp Schilke, V8 Supercars Correspondent
Whincup and Lowndes ready for final fight for 2011crown
The V8 Supercars Australia championship contenders will take their final battle for the 2011 title this weekend in the Sydney Telstra 500. If this year’s event is anything like the 2010 season finale, the fans will again get one heck of a show. Like last year, this year’s driver championship is up for grabs. James Courtney took the crown in a showdown between Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom, but neither of the three took a victory on the Homebush Street Circuit.
Racing on a temporary street circuit usually adds to the drama and if this year is like the 2010 event, it will no doubt be as exciting. Of course last year in the first race on Saturday, the rain played a factor with all three of the top guns – Courtney, Whincup and Winterbottom – crashed out early due to being on slicks tires before the sudden cloud burst hit the 3.5 km (2.2 mile) circuit. The trio were involved with six other cars.
I am excited to be joining the highly successful V8 Supercars organisation.
Whincup and his teammate Craig Lowndes are in the hunt for the championship. The Teams’ title has already been sealed by TeamVodafone and now both of their drivers want the crown but only one of them will earn it on Sunday. Whincup holds the edge with 3033 points over Lowndes who has 2845. If Whincup takes the title, he will be only the second driver in the series history to have landed both the (Australian Touring Car) V8 Supercars championships driving for the two main rival manufacturers: Holden and Ford. Norm Beechey aka "Stormin Norman" was the first back before Whincup was even racing!
While Whincup has the edge, one cannot yet count out Lowndes who has proven more than once that he can still earn the championship. Lowndes, in the Commodore #888, will be gunning for the pole and race 1 victory on Saturday but even if he takes the victory, Lowndes has to hope that his teammate in the #88 finishes at least in fifth place just to remain in contention for the title on Sunday. Whincup can notch the title on Saturday. Adding to the drama will be the fact that both drivers have not had good luck at Homebush and both have failed to reach the podium at the venue.
While those two chase for the crown, their competitors will be reaching for the final podium steps in both races. Mark “Frosty” Winterbottom grew up in the Sydney area and he would like to close out his season with the double win. Currently he sits third in points in a Ford Falcon FG and is followed by fellow Ford driver Shane van Gisbergen from New Zealand who has made it in the spotlight several times this season. Fifth in the points is 2007 champion Garth Tander who will aim to place his HRT Commodore on top of the leaderboard in both races.
For the teams and drivers of the series, it has been a busy week in Sydney, Australia. Besides their personal and sponsor appearances, the drivers also visited the local Children’s Hospital and Courtney said, "It was so special to meet these children and their parents. I only hope they got as much out of this morning as we did!”
Adding to the fun but this time off track in the Darling Harbour was the two title chasers playing on rubber ducks! It was a bit wild as YOU vs TeamVodafone in the Giant Rubber Duck Race. Lowndes and Whincup had to paddle across the secured area of the harbour and the boys did it as they crossed the line to take the fan challenge title. It was the final challenge this year in a variety of contests between fans and the TeamVodafone drivers.
“I’ve really enjoyed the You VS TeamVodafone fan challenges. It’s a great chance for us to catch-up with the fans before the big race, plus it’s not every day you get to race a massive inflatable duck through Darling Harbour,” said Whincup.
Another fun event was the beach cricket match between the New Zealand and Australian drivers (plus guests). The fearless New Zealand team took the victory!
The V8 Supercars Australia series will unveil the ‘Car of the Future’ project on Friday. Today, the new CEO of V8 Supercars (V8SA) was announced. David Malone will take the reins in the new year (2012). His credentials are impeccable having built relationships with the International media and, of course, the local press in Australia. In June, he left the Premier Media Group (PMG) after serving as the CEO for 11 years.
“The board of V8SA is delighted to have secured David as the organisation’s new CEO," said V8SA Chairman Tony Cochrane. “David brings a unique and highly valuable mix of senior media sector management experience and technical skills, spanning operations, finance, sales and marketing, and negotiation of media rights agreements.”
Malone said, “I am excited to be joining the highly successful V8 Supercars organisation. The team have built an extraordinary sporting franchise over the past 15 years and I am committed to delivering on the numerous growth opportunities that the business now has.”
Stay tuned for the final showdown of the V8 Supercars as it will be one not to miss. While the local Australians will see the live broadcast, other countries will show the season finale at a later date. The series will continue to extend their schedule outside of Australia and they do plan to race in Austin, Texas in 2013.