Tasmania turned it on again with a cracking round at the short but sharp Symmons Plains racetrack. Despite being the shortest track on the calendar, it always proves to be a hit, sometimes literally.
- Shane van Gisbergen was clearly the fastest driver on track throughout the races, seemingly dominating races four and five ahead of Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom respectively. His Saturday drive provided what we all wanted to see this year: a good wheel-to-wheel battle with his team mates and rivals. His racing against the reigning champion on Sunday was thrilling to watch. He was surely going to win until being caught out on the oil of Cam Waters’ Falcon. Even though he was not classified, his speed should be worrying for his rivals as he is now gelled into the #97 Commodore.
- Will Davison made a strong case as a potential contender for this year’s title, jumping up from 15th in the standings at the start of the round to first by the end of Sunday. Driving to his first podium for Tekno Autosports on Saturday and on track to get third on Sunday, things looked pretty good for the driver who is still only two rounds in to driving for his new team. Things got even better when van Gisbergen and Winterbottom were caught out on oil, giving Davison the race lead. His first win for Tekno came much earlier than some expected and was perhaps more surprising given the departure of internationally experienced and highly regarded team manager Steve Hallam earlier in the week.
- Mark Winterbottom had pace to burn not only in the races over the round, but also in qualifying where he notched up two pole positions. He showed he still has good race craft, taking the fight to van Gisbergen on Sunday which provided some spectacular viewing. While he led for some of Saturday’s race, a simple error of overshooting his pit box put him back down the order. Even though some could argue he could have slowed down more in to turn 4 on Sunday to avoid his team mate’s oil (or the team could have given him better warning), third wasn’t a bad result given his rival throughout the race failed to finish.
- Chris Pither may be in doubt for the next round at Phillip Island after binning his Falcon for the second round running. Already using a development series chassis, the Prodrive crew now have a decent amount of work to do to make sure the young Kiwi gets on the grid in two weeks time. The crash was 50/50 his fault. Even though Percat could have moved over a bit more to the left, Pither was out of line in pushing him over to the edge of the track, hoping the Commodore would just disappear. This as well as a 17th placing on Saturday are not the results he and the team were looking for to start the season.
- Volvo Cyan Racing must be searching for the black cat that keeps giving them back luck after a mixed back weekend in Tasmania. Reliability issues again hampered Scott McLaughlin, having to sit out race four thanks to a butterfly valve issue in the engine. However, he fought back to an impressive fourth in race five. James Moffat seemed to hit problems on Sunday but still managed to finish 16th, a four place improvement on the previous race. However, this isn’t to say things are going well for him. His weekend seemed to go from bad to worse, just like this season appears to be going from bad to worse for Volvo’s latest recruit. The team will be looking to chase the gremlins in the system by Phillip Island.
- Tim Blanchard and the phrase “has had trouble” tend to go hand-in-hand these days. A mildly impressive 15th place was the highlight of his weekend, as he struggled to get out of the mid pack. The real issues began on Sunday when he locked up into the notorious turn four hairpin. Running off the road, his bumper was damaged which them started to affect the performance of the car. He then tried to help the team’s travel costs by having a lock up at such high speed that if it weren’t for the gravel trap, he would have ended up back at the mainland. Blanchard and BJR will be hoping for some better results at some point in the year.
Honourable mention: Jamie Whincup for proving six-time champions can still make rookie errors by getting beached thanks to pushing too hard on cold tyres (and holding his hand up to the mistake). He also provided the sound effect of the weekend after having a sizeable thump with Andre Heimgartner’s Commodore.
The V8 Supercars championship order was shuffled significantly as a variety of factors changed the order on track over the course of the weekend. Most of the teams, however, will be assessing the damage bills and looking for more consistency as they head back to Victoria for the third round of the season at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit, a track which has been the penultimate championship round in previous years.