V8 Supercars proved today that you can change things for the better, take notice F1. Race four of the 2016 season and the first race of the new Supersprint format at Symmons Plains was exactly the type of race which made me stand up and take notice of V8 Supercars almost ten years ago, and we were treated to some great racing all the way down the field. There were fantastic strategy calls aplenty and some disappointing races for some of the championship’s big players, take a look below at four talking points from Saturday’s race in Tasmania.
Should PRA be getting nervous?
I have to say, I honestly expected Frosty to finish in at least 3rd place. Instead, the reigning champion endured a difficult race and combined with a less than polished pitstop finished down in 9th after a frantic battle with Bright, Waters and Slade in the final few laps. Plenty of people may say that it’s far too early to start talking about the championship but it’s only four races in, and Frosty already trails SVG by 98 points in 10th place. There’s still more than enough time for Winterbottom to make amends for what has been a less than perfect start to 2016 and qualifying showed that they (PRA) do have a fast car over one lap. At the moment it feels like PRA are just missing the finishing touches and with Triple Eight as strong as they are every difficult race means more points lost to their rivals. Of course, we could see an incredible turnaround tomorrow and if Frosty takes victory on Sunday he will be 150 points better off, but I just can’t see all of Van Gisbergen, Whincup and Lowndes having poor races, Triple Eight seem incredibly strong at the moment.
After a difficult qualifying Mostert finished just behind Winterbottom in 10th, a result which leaves him 192 points off the lead in 21st place. It might not be now, but there will come a point in the season were Mostert may just be cut adrift if results continue the way they have. On the flip side, a huge shoutout to Cam Waters who continued his great debut V8SC season by overtaking his teammate on his way to a 7th place finish.
Caruso Falls Fast
A fine 4th place for Rick Kelly showed that Nissan have improved at Symmons Plains after a difficult time in Tasmania last year, and whilst I expected that the series would leave Symmons Plains with a new championship leader, I didn’t expect Caruso to fall that fast. The NISMO Nissan finished down in 21st place in the race and falls to 6th in the table, 83 points behind SVG. His Nissan teammates Todd Kelly and Dale Wood fared little better with 19th and 22nd place finishes and with a big decision on Nissan’s future in V8’s expected soon, disappointing results will do nothing to help the case for running four factory backed cars in 2017.
Some Great Holden Performances
It seems fitting that in the race that Holden secured their 500th V8SC/ATCC win, Holdens up and down the field had stellar races (apart from possibly HRT – although their fate was sealed in qualifying). It’s great to see Will Davison finally back up the sharp end of the grid and his maiden Tekno podium comes in just his 4th championship race for the team. Triple Eight have an extremely strong unit at the head of the field and with Davison getting to grips with the Tekno Commodore they have a powerful ally in the fight against their rivals.
Jason Bright and Tim Slade also deserve a mention, combining some inspired strategy calls with great racecraft to finish in 6th and 8th. There can be no doubt that the new Supersprint format bought with it a wealth of extra depth to Saturday’s races with the soft tyres and flexibility on strategy calls playing into the hands of BJR. Jason Bright’s Nascar style move on Winterbottom and his subsequent move past Waters were some of the highlights of the race and I think we can all look forward to similar action at Philip Island in a couple of weeks!
Struggles for Some Big Players
I’ve already touched upon Frosty and Mostert having difficult races however the two PRA boys weren’t the only drivers to endure a hard time. Scott McLaughlin’s race was over before it even started as engine problems forced a pit lane start. GRM showed towards the end of last season just how strong the Volvo S60 was and I really hope that reliability problems don’t hamper McLaughlin again in 2016. Qualifying and Clipsal showed that the Volvo is fast, and in the hands of McLaughlin it’s a proven race winner, they just need the reliability to match it’s obvious pace.
DJR Team Penske and HRT were the two other teams who I think would have been a little disappointed with events on Saturday. After the promise of Clipsal and strong performances at the Australian GP both teams struggled in qualifying and all four cars finished outside the top ten with Tander 11th, Courtney 13th, Pye 14th and Coulthard 18th. Tander and Courtney remain just inside the championship’s top ten after a disappointing Saturday and with big decisions expected by Holden over the course of 2016 the need for HRT to consistently run at the front is becoming critical. Of course, if both cars finish on the podium tomorrow then all their Saturday woes may be forgotten but it will no doubt hurt everyone at HRT that it wasn’t Holden’s de facto factory squad that secured their 500th win.
In what is also a landmark weekend for both DJRTP and Coulthard, both Falcon FGX’s had quiet races after the headline grabbing performances of the last two rounds. Like with HRT, both teams have huge potential and a positive Sunday will more than make up for the disappointment of Saturday, especially with more points on offer, I guess we’ll have to see what tomorrow brings!