Winners and Losers – Clipsal 500 Adelaide

Nick Percat winner of the 2016 Clipsal 500 Adelaide
Nick Percat, the surprise but deserving winner of Sunday’s wet and wild Clipsal 500 Photo: Rhys Vandersyde

Well, wasn’t that an action packed Clipsal 500? It had it all: rain, sunshine, heat and even a bit of racing in between. In a weekend that was seemingly dominated by Holden, the headlines may be dominated by something bigger in the coming weeks as the fall out from Adelaide looks set to rumble on. Despite the building controversy, V8 Supercars announced in a big way that racing is alive and kicking in 2016.

Winners

  1. Nick Percat and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport could have only dreamed of having such strong results so early in the year after the young gun took out Sunday’s 250km (actually 131.4km) race. He proved the saying of “to finish first, first you must finish” is still relevant, while also showing his team had extensive knowledge of the rule book (or at least knowing when to listen to the headmaster). After being shafted from Walkinshaw in 2014, Percat had a character building 2015 which sometimes led many, including myself, to critique his driving. However, his win on Sunday will surely leave some sore heads on Monday as the Adelaide local celebrates his first solo win in the city of churches.
  2. Jamie Whincup is the name that keeps coming up season after season. While the six-time champion finished a less than stellar 16th place on Sunday, his win in race one and second placing in race two means he is sitting third in the points standings. Saturday seemed like a flashback to years gone by with Whincup dominating the first race, showing his eagerness to get the #1 back on his car. His battle with James Courtney was one for the ages, neither driver giving an inch in the dying laps, both deserving of a win, though it was the Holden factory driver who took the victory. Multiple spins and bumps marred his Sunday race, though with 98 wins now under his belt, Whincup will be going to Symmons Plains hungry to notch up a century.
  3. The Holden Racing Team did an excellent job of giving James Courtney a win and second placing on Saturday as well as Garth Tander a much needed podium on Sunday. After significantly downsizing from four cars last season to two now, the team needed to get good results right off the bat to reaffirm the belief that bigger is not always better. Their results at the end of last year weren’t something to write home about so it was good for the squad to get three podiums out of three races in Adelaide. While Courtney is rueing what might have been after losing control in a rookie error in race three, Tander now sits second in the championship standings, a small boost as the championship amps up.

Losers

  1. Tim Slade has a bad relationship with lady luck; borderline abusive and highly dominated by one party. Making his debut for Brad Jones Racing, the ex-Walkinshaw driver’s weekend went from bad to worse from Saturday to Sunday. In the first race of the season, he locked up on the run down to turn nine, making a fairly routine stop but not being able to spin his car around before the tyre barriers. Unable to engage reverse gear, he and his car were unwillingly loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to the paddock: no points if you’re sitting in the garage. A 17th place finish was to be the highlight of the round. On Sunday, he found himself engaged in the last place championship, battling for positions which weren’t really worth fighting for. Contact with Andre Heimgartner left him damaged, struggling to make the pit entrance and ending up being classified in 20th. Still without a win, Slade will be hoping he and his luck can settle their differences soon.
  2. Chaz Mostert may have secured pole in just his second start since spectacularly crashing out of the 2015 season, but that didn’t totally cover for the mistakes  he made over the rest of the weekend. In the first race, 16th was all  he could manage, finishing behind his 2015 Enduro Cup co-driver and now team-mate Cam Waters. Race two saw him come home third after starting on pole and leading some of the race. While he was racing well in the changeable conditions on Sunday, it was clear that he was still uneasy and restless, struggling to find a groove after so much time out of the car. Unfortunately he didn’t find the time to get settled after understeering onto the damp surface at turn 8, hitting the infamous barrier, putting him out of the race. Despite being arguably one of the best drivers in the field, he needs to take it down a notch and drive smart if he wants to emulate his team-mate Mark Winterbottom and bring home the championship.
  3. V8 Supercars and its officials/stewards have a good amount of explaining to do after what can only be described as a massive cock-up on Sunday with the intermittent and sometimes torrential weather. Even though according to the rule book the race hadn’t started, they deemed it had. An inability to read the conditions from feedback coming from not only team bosses but the TV images could be attributed as a cause of Courtney’s crash; allowing the cars to race at full speed in dangerous conditions. Sure the throttle works both ways but don’t we have a safety car for a reason? It’s a shame it came out late however that’s racing. A lengthy delay and under ten minutes of racing at the end of the day took away from the racing. That’s without mentioning the mind-bogglingly complex fuel rule stipulating all cars had to take on the minimum amount even though only about half of the race distance had actually been completed, forcing many drivers and teams to either pit in the dying laps or take a time penalty. Hopefully these flaws can be eradicated before the next few rounds, just in case something as crazy as this weekend happens again.

The Clipsal 500 Adelaide is always a special event for the year, not just because it is the first round of the season, but because it is held on one of the best street tracks in the world. The weekend’s racing however, provided inconsistent results, making it difficult to gauge how the season could pan out.

Next up, it’s the non-championship round at Albert Park as support to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, followed by the second round of the championship at Symmons Plains in Tasmania.

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