The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship landed in Perth this weekend, setting up at the short and sharp Barbagallo Raceway. A weekend of mixed weather and high tyre degradation saw two first-time winners for 2016, making it eight different winners from nine races. As usual, the racing at the pointy end of the field was captivating, showing the best competition in years.
- Craig Lowndes is yet again proving to be Mr. Consistent after opening up a points lead to his team-mate Jamie Whincup over the weekend. Taking one race win and one third place in the process, the Team Vortex driver seems to be relishing in his challenge this year of adapting to a “one car operation”. He and engineer Ludo Lacroix now seem to be on the same page, taking risks to go for glory; a strategy that has so far been paying off. Lowndes now leads the championship, being a formidable force in the 2016 season.
- Scott McLaughlin put a horrible week for Volvo behind him by showing up on track, letting his results do the talking. After the manufacturer announced it would be recalling the Volvo S60’s that Garry Rogers and his team runs, McLaughlin did what he does best and drove his heart out in a desperate attempt to get back on the radar of the Scandinavian giant. While his 11th place finish on Saturday wasn’t special, holding off a charging Lowndes and hunting down Mark Winterbottom on Sunday en-route to second on the podium showed the speed of the young Kiwi. He now sits third in the championship, proving that consistency is in important part of finishing well.
- Mark Winterbottom may have had a Saturday to forget but his fightback on Sunday was a champion’s drive, reminding everyone of why the #1 is on his Falcon. After a few trips to the beach and unlucky incidents in Saturday’s race, Winterbottom’s strategy in the 200km feature put him in prime position to take the win. On older tyres, he fought off a hard-charging McLaughlin and Lowndes despite being slowed by the young Aaren Russell, looking to un-lap himself. The defending champion is now 4th in the points standings, making the best of bad situations to gain points where he can.
- Erebus Motorsport is yet to dig itself out of a hole this season, suffering a horrible lack of pace over the weekend. Things are yet to come good for the team, seemingly struggling with a lack of staff and knowledge on the VF Commodores. Star signing David Reynolds failed to perform on Saturday and Sunday, coming home 19th and 21st respectively, the latter due to damage sustained in contact with a Nissan. Aaren Russell’s 24th and 25th place finishes were far from exciting, apart from when he did the unthinkable and passed the leader of the race trying to un-lap himself. While he was within his rights to do so, a wrong move or a mistimed error could’ve had disastrous consequences.
- DJR Team Penske had a weekend to forget after lacklustre results brought them back down to earth after good finishes at Phillip Island. Under the watchful eyes of racing giant Roger Penske, both Fabian Coulthard and Scott Pye would have been hoping for the races to finish sooner as they were running mid-pack and worse. Coulthard was the star of the team, still only managing a 17th and 15th Pye struggled and was penalised in race 8, finishing 24th then and 19th on Sunday; not at all what The Captain would have wanted to see. They will be hoping for better results at Winton, a track where their Ford counterparts dominated last year.
- Tim Blanchard must be bringing a sizable cheque to Brad Jones Racing as his on-track results far from justify his presence in the Supercars championship. Failing to crack the top 20 is usually a sign that either the car or the driver is bad yet his BJR team-mates seemingly have no problem with getting up near the sharp end of the pack. This season will undoubtedly be make or break for him, as he is running out of time that he deserves a seat in the series over drivers like Macauley Jones and Josh Kean from the Dunlop Series.
With less than 100 points splitting the top 5 drivers, the championship is set to heat up over winter. Next up, the series departs from Perth and arrives in Winton, the bush town with a track that has been the scene of many standoffs over previous years.