To use the word excited would be an understatement. As I start typing this, practice one of the Clipsal 500 is just 12 hours away although I’m guessing by the time this is posted it will be more or less underway! Like all you of you, I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since the checkered flag fell at Sydney in early December and here in the UK, the start of V8SC 2016 means the start my transition into a nocturnal lifestyle on race weekends! My SuperView subscription is paid, and I’m all set to go for what should be an epic season of motor racing. There are so many variables and unknowns heading into the first race weekend of 2016 that it would be impossible to list every single thing I’m eager to see over the first 500km of 2016, but below, you can find the four things I’m looking forward to seeing most at this weekends Clipsal 500. I’ve tried to stay away from the usual headline grabbing topics which you might expect many previews to write about, and instead focus on some of the more interesting talking points bubbling beneath the surface.
Will Davison back at the sharp end. Davison’s drive in the closing laps at Perth last year showed that he is still more than capable of leading from the front, so after just seven top five finishes in the last two seasons it will be great to see WD back fighting in the top five/ten on a regular basis. Race wins and regular podiums straight out of the blocks might be a tough ask, but Davison finished 4th and 3rd in his final two seasons at Ford and there’s no reason to suggest we won’t be seeing a repeat of that form once he gets up to speed with the T8 Holden. Sharing a boom with Lowndes might bring up some complications later in the season if the two end up closely matched but I can’t wait to see how Davison goes this weekend.
Armed with arguably some of the best machinery on the grid, the competitive Tekno Commodore should make a nice change from the Erebus Mercedes from the last two years. Also, we know he’s up there with some of the best drivers in the series, but seeing how Davison gets on the Tekno Commodore over the course of the season will let us see just how fast SVG was, although I think we probably know the answer to that already!
Two competitive Volvo’s. I think it will be such a relief for GRM to finally have two drivers capable of scoring big points (no disrespect to David Wall). I just wonder how much higher Garry Rodgers and Co could have finished in the teams championship had they had both McLaughlin and Wall scoring regular points and now with Moffat in the car, they have a driver capable of doing just that. I know they didn’t have the smoothest of tests the other week, but just look how poorly they started last year (compared with 2014) before they came back strongly in the second half of the season. It’ll be important for GRM to replicate the success of their sensational 2014 because with Volvo now having a factory presence in STCC, WTCC (as of this season) and V8SC, I find it hard to believe that in today’s money dominated motorsport business they will continue to support all three series. I hope I’m wrong in that respect, and hopefully Gen2 rules will ease some of the burden.
Anyway back to this weekend. McLaughlin and Volvo have shown great speed around Adelaide over the last two seasons, despite their terrible luck last year and with Moffat now behind the wheel of the #34, it’s time for Volvo and GRM to start bagging the results and points the Volvo S60 is clearly capable of.
Will we see a stronger HRT? After downsizing to just two cars for 2016 HRT really have no more excuses when it comes to not performing to their potential. 2016 is massive year for HRT/Walkinshaw and if they continue to underachieve then I think they’re in real danger of losing their status as the de facto Holden factory squad, especially considering the strength of Triple Eight. I know HRT, well specifically Courtney tend to go very well on street circuits and having won the Clipsal 500 for the last two years, HRT must go into this weekend with the aim of making it hat-trick of victories. HRT are still the most successful Clipsal team in terms of wins by quite a margin, and it would take five seasons of T8 domination for them to be overtaken by their rivals but a strong weekend in Adelaide would do Burgess, Courtney and Tander the world of good.
I believe the contracts of Courtney and Tander are also up at the end of 2016 (correct me if I’m wrong). There seems to be a wealth of young talent waiting in the wings, with the likes of Jack le Brocq and Macauley Jones learning the ropes in the Dunlop Series, alongside drivers such as McLaughlin and Percat in the main game. Both Courtney and Tander need to prove their worth this season and Clipsal would be a great place to start.
Finally, I want to give a shoutout to some of the incredible liveries which look set to be on display this weekend, none more so than the ones of the PRA cars, I can’t seem to come across one person who doesn’t think they look fantastic. In a time where finding sponsors to cover both cars can be considered an achievement, I think PRA have done remarkably well to create some epic looking liveries for all four of their cars and I can’t wait to see how good they look on track. I’ll sign off this preview by leaving you with the opportunity to have one final look at the PRA Falcon’s before they hit the track for practice, and we all get sucked into what promises to be an epic 2016.