Driver’s Eye View: Winton

Our V8 Supercars race craft expert Tony D’Alberto looks at James Courtney’s two Prodrive run-ins, and compares the fortunes of Tim Slade and James Moffat.

Driver’s Eye View: Winton
James Courtney, Holden Racing Team
James Courtney, Holden Racing Team
James Courtney, Holden Racing Team
James Courtney, Holden Racing Team
Chaz Mostert, Rod Nash Racing Ford
Chaz Mostert, Rod Nash Racing Ford
Podium: winner Tim Slade, Brad Jones Racing Holden, second place Mark Winterbottom, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford, third place Fabian Coulthard, Team Penske Ford
Winner Tim Slade, Brad Jones Racing Holden
Podium: winner Tim Slade, Brad Jones Racing Holden
Winner Tim Slade, Brad Jones Racing Holden
Winner Tim Slade, Brad Jones Racing Holden
Winner Tim Slade, Brad Jones Racing Holden
James Moffat, Garry Rogers Motorsport Volvo
James Moffat, Garry Rogers Motorsport Volvo
James Moffat, Garry Rogers Motorsport Volvo
James Moffat, Garry Rogers Motorsport Volvo

Let’s start with James Courtney. His HRT Commodore was a bit of a magnet for Prodrive Fords over the weekend, starting with a high-speed clash with Cam Waters during Saturday’s race.

When I first looked at the Courtney/Waters incident, I thought that James was in the wrong. But the more I watch it, the more it does seem like it was a genuine racing incident. Jason Bargwanna didn’t hand out any penalties for it, so he obviously saw it the same way.

It seems that Waters was hoping JC would back out of it, which was never going to happen – he’s a hard racer. And he’d already been pushed around through Turn 4 – which was just a bit of bump and grind – but it meant he definitely wasn’t going to give up as he was going through the sweeper.

Waters, on the outside, had to turn in as well… so it was the perfect case of a racing incident.

Mostert vs Courtney

In the case of Chaz Mostert and Courtney, I think the awkward way that the cars locked wheels and spat Chaz into the air made that look a lot worse than it was.

I don’t believe Chaz was massively too late in the corner, there. He didn’t have the wheels locked or anything like that.

However, it is a very difficult place to pass because the braking zone is so short. There’s really not enough room to get a run.

So it was a brave move from Mostert, and he must have known there was going to be contact. But had it just been normal side contact, there wouldn’t have been the damage to the two cars and they would have carried on. JC may have lost a spot and a bit of momentum, but he wouldn’t have ended up in the pits with all that damage.

When things go right…

Like the rest of the V8 paddock, I’m very happy for Tim Slade. It must be a weight off his shoulders, monkey off his back… All of the clichés! But Sladey is a hard worker, so it’s great to see it happen for him.

This is a tough game, and to do it the way he did it on the weekend, everything must have really clicked. That means the driver, the car, the conditions, everything. And he made the most of it. Everyone says it’s all about the cars, but even if you have the best car out there you’ve got to be able to get the job done behind the wheel.

I reckon that performance will prove a lot of people wrong about Slade. And he will take a lot of confidence away from that, because he just drove so well both days. He nailed both starts, and he didn’t put a foot wrong.

What is interesting is that there are two other Brad Jones Racing cars on the grid, which have access to Tim’s set-up and all his data. And they didn’t perform anywhere near as well.

So it’s not just getting the car right in a general sense, but getting it right in a way that Tim is able to get the best out of it.

When things go wrong…

We hear it a lot. ‘V8 Supercars is the toughest Touring Car championship in the world’. But it’s probably true. The guys at the back aren’t looking for seconds, or even tenths of seconds. They’re looking for hundredths. It’s genuinely that close.

James Moffat is perfect proof of how fickle V8 Supercars racing is.

Obviously Scott McLaughlin has been in the Volvo for a few seasons, and has gelled with it. But Moffat isn’t quite at that point yet.

Moffat can drive as well as anyone out there… but it’s just not working for him at the moment. He’s already come out and said that he’s down on confidence, and that’s fully understandable.

He would have come into this season with plans to do what he can to match McLaughlin, and it was a reasonable expectation that he’d be able to do that. But as of yet, they haven’t unlocked what he needs from that car.

The ingredients are there, and Moffat knows that too. He just needs to work out how to extract it.

It may come down to the engineering team as well. Scott and his engineer have been working together for a long time, and Moffat is still new to the team. If you look at the fact that Fabian Coulthard took Phil Keed over to DJR Team Penske, it shows how critical that driver/engineer relationship is. 

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