In the spotlight kicked off on Monday with a short preview of Honda’s prospects in the 2016 BTCC. Today I’ll turn the spotlight to Australia’s oldest, (and one of the newest) teams, DJR Team Penske and assess their chances of success in 2016.
Following their downsize to just one Falcon in 2015, the 2016 V8SC grid will once again be graced by two DJR prepared Falcon’s for the retained Scott Pye and the incoming Fabian Coulthard. I think it’s clear for everyone to see that DJRTP are going about motor racing the right way, they’re slowly investing in the behind the scenes infrastructure, the right drivers, and the right engineers in Phil Keed and Adam De Borre, so I have no doubts that they’re well on the way to becoming major players in V8SC.
In Pye and Coulthard, DJRTP have the drivers they need to regularly challenge well inside the top ten, something Penske bigwig Tim Cindric made clear was the target in his interview with V8Supercars.com.au earlier this week. Pye’s progress after being drafted in following Ambrose’s departure after Clipsal was nothing short of remarkable and a podium in Pukekohe was a just reward for Pye and everyone at the team, especially after his nasty accident at Bathurst.
By signing Fabian Coulthard, DJRTP have bagged themselves a proven race winner, and with 5 wins and 28 podium finishes to his name, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Coulthard more than occasionally adds to that tally throughout 2016. It was unfortunate that Coulthard’s blistering start to 2015 tailed off towards the end of season as Prodrive and Triple Eight came on strong. Seven podiums in the first six rounds of the season kept Coulthard within touching distance of the title race right up until the enduros and with BJR notoriously quick at some tracks, and way off the pace at others Coulthard and Pye will hope that investment behind the scenes will enable DJRTP to challenge in a more consistent fashion.
It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in the inter-team battle because Pye and Coulthard appear to be very evenly matched. With three full seasons under his belt, Pye is slowing building a solid bank of V8SC experience, which I’m sure he will need to regularly draw upon if he wants to get the better of his more experienced team mate. The two appear a very solid match, and I’m sure that the challenge of developing a new(ish) team from the ground upwards will see the pair work very well together, as much as either wants to finish on top.
The Shell Helix livery looks great, and although it won’t be around for the whole of 2016 I for one, am really looking forward to seeing what liveries the team can produce for the remaining rounds of the season. I don’t think anyone is expecting a tilt at the title this season from DJRTP, however I don’t think seeing the occasional podium finish for Coulthard and Pye will be a surrpise for any V8SC fan. Whilst Triple Eight, PRA and maybe Tekno may be just out of reach for one more season, it looks like HRT, GRM and BJR will be spending much of 2016 nervously looking over their shoulders at two very fast FGX’s, piloted by two very fast drivers, racing for a team which only has eyes for the very front of the grid. Watch this space.