A new V8 Supercars season always brings with it a renewed optimism, rejuvenated teams and driver line-ups, fresh faces, new-look liveries, and of course a new set of challenges. Jordan Mulach highlights five key areas to look out for in this coming season.
1. (Body) Shell Shock
During the off-season, more aero testing was completed to improve parity across the field. Holden’s Commodore has undergone minor changes while Nissan’s bodywork is said to be drastically changed from what’s been run over the last two years. Ford’s new racer, the FG X Falcon will be the biggest change with no body panels being shared between it and the FG that it replaces. The best comparison test should be not only the difference in times between this year and the previous two, but also the performance of those running the FG X bodywork (Winterbottom, Mostert and Ambrose) versus that of the two initially running the FG shell (Reynolds and Heimgartner), especially given the repeated complaints of rear-end stability issues over the last two seasons.
2. McLaughlin’s Magic
After a stellar rookie season in 2013 and a strong top five finish in 2014, Scott McLaughlin will undoubtedly be a front runner this year. Four wins and ten pole positions last season, McLaughlin has undeniable pace and has never been fazed when challenged by champions like Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes. Unreliability caused issues for McLaughlin throughout the season but after a year of learning and development, Volvo Polestar Racing will hopefully have a more stable and reliable package in 2015. However, with Holden, Ford and Nissan all running with lower-drag this year could the pace-setting Volvo be reined in?
3. Benz Battles
It’s no secret that Erebus Motorsport has struggled over the past two seasons, but Betty’s Benz’s will be hoping to consistently feature at the sharp end of the field this season. With the departure of Lee Holdsworth, rookie Ash Walsh has no illusions, but will be hoping to keep up with team-mate Will Davison. However, with no factory backing, no updates to its aero package and still no sign of a title sponsor, there are questions about just how long the Mercs will stick around in the series.
4. A Champion’s Comeback
The biggest news of 2014 for blue-blooded fans was that two-time champion and Ford hero Marcos Ambrose would make a return to the category with Dick Johnson Racing (DJR)/Team Penske in 2015. After leaving at the end of 2005 to pursue a career in NASCAR, Ambrose was persuaded to leave the States by American powerhouse Team Penske, who has now taken a 51% stake in DJR. Things have changed in the series since Ambrose left but his passion to win certainly hasn’t.
5. Whincup the Winner
2014 was an amazing, record-breaking year for Jamie Whincup who won his sixth championship in seven years. This year will be Whincup’s 10th season with Triple 8 Race Engineering, a winning combination that has brought in 89 race wins and 61 pole positions. Whincup has been a relentless winner who, despite incessant and unwarranted vilification, continues to push himself every year. The questions on everyone’s lips are will he be able to bag a seventh title and can he beat Lowndes to the 100 win barrier? Given his achievements over the past seven years and the fact he has consistently and systematically beaten his teammate it seems likely.