The weekend yet again proved just competitive V8 Supercars is, and race five of the championship was another feast of chaos, drama and displays of incredible driving as Will Davison took his maiden victory for Tekno Autosports in a dramatic last few laps. There were plenty of big talking points throughout the Symmons Plains weekend and I addressed some of those in my last post, so below you can find my lowdown of who enjoyed a good weekend in Tasmania and who had a bad time on the Apple Isle.
Will Davison and Tekno Autosports
What a weekend it was for Davison and everyone at Tekno. The departure of Steve Hallam was a big blow to the small but highly successful unit but they proved this weekend that they are more than capable of mixing consistently at the front. By his own admission Davison understandably struggled a little at Clipsal and the Grand Prix but in a remarkable turn of events, he now looks more at home in the Tekno Commodore than at any point in his Erebus career. I have to say, it’s great to see Davison back at the front, and this time as a quasi teammate to Jamie Whincup and co rather than a rival. The Triple Eight cars were in monstrous form at Symmons Plains and despite inheriting Sundays race win it would be cruel to say it wasn’t deserved after he set the fastest lap in qualifying.
Consistency is a large part of winning championships, as is making the most of opportunities when rivals falter and although it’s early days, to leave Tasmania with a 15 point lead in the championship is remarkable so early into his Tekno career.
Pit Boom 2
To be honest, it was a great weekend all round for garage number two in the pitlane. Lowndes finished a fine second on Sunday and both Team Vortex and Tekno must be pleased at the way they avoided double stacking Lowndes and Davison in the safety car drama on Sunday. It will be important for both crews to work together as it looks pretty much certain that both Davison and Lowndes will be running very close together all season and a successful run early on will pay dividends later on when the pressure to score big points increases.
His fine second place ensured Lowndes moved up to 2nd in the championship, just 15 points off the lead and a repeat of his 2015 triple podium at Philip Island could see him bag further valuable points early on in the season. Lowndes mentioned in the post race press conference that there is still some progress to be made regarding data sharing between the Red Bull Racing and Vortex garages so one can only wonder how much more Lowndes will improve when Triple Eight fully get on top of their new, three car operation.
Two pole positions (although one was inherited) shows that PRA are finally getting on top of the Falcon this season and all of Winterbottom, Mostert and Waters showed strong race pace across the weekend. His podium finish on Sunday, although a two place drop from his pole position moves the Bottle O’ Falcon up to 4th in the championship, just 39 points off Will Davison and PRA’s 2016 season looks to be finally getting back on track.
It was great to see Winterbottom get his elbows out in the battle with SVG on Sunday and I hope we see much more of that throughout the season. The Falcon was extremely strong at the upcoming tracks on the calendar last season and Frosty’s championship campaign may just start to really get going if he can replicate Sundays podium at a few of the next races. PRA might not have enjoyed the start to the season they expected but in Winterbottom, Mostert and Waters they have three drivers all very capable of running in the top five/ten on a regular basis.
What started off as a Sunday of great potential for Nissan Motorsport with an inspired strategy call to pit Rick Kelly at the end of lap one turned into an unfortunate missed opportunity for the Sengled Altima when his brakes gave up towards the end of the race. Kelly showed great pace all weekend and if not for his brake dramas, could well have finished on the podium, further confirming the progress Nissan have made with the Altima over the last few months. But is it enough? Last year they struggled at Symmons Plains and the other three Altimas spent the vast majority of both races this year circling around towards the back of the field.
Pre-Tasmania championship points leader Michael Caruso had a difficult weekend at Symmons Plains and as I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t expect Caruso to fall back so quickly. The Nismo Nissan finished 21st on Saturday and 11th on Sunday, leaving Caruso 9th in the points table, but just 81 points off the top. However, the Nissan Altimas were strong at Philip Island last year and a return to top ten finishes should be on the cards for at least one of their cars.
Prodrive Racing Australia, Cam Waters, Chris Pither and the Ice Break Falcon
You’ve got to feel for the workshop staff over at PRA. No sooner had they repaired Chris Pithers damaged chassis from the Clipsal 500 they are tasked with repairing one of their Dunlop Series Chassis after Pither binned his Falcon FXG into the barriers after contact with Nick Percat on Sunday. I’ve read in some places that Pither was using Jack le Brocq’s Dunlop Series chassis (I don’t know if anyone can confirm that?)and if that’s the case then PRA have some serious work to do before Philip Island in a couple of weeks. They said in the commentary that the damage wasn’t at bad as it looked, but it looked horrific.
I don’t mean any disrespect to Pither at all here, he’s a far better driver than I could ever dream of being but I am wondering why PRA are running a 4th car. At the moment at least, it seems that the Super Black entry is more trouble than it’s worth and the repair bill is steadily increasing. I can’t see Pither helping take big points off the likes of Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske.
It was a shame that Cam Waters’ impressive debut V8SC run came to an end on Sunday afternoon, through no fault of his own. Waters’ race was compromised early on by having to double stack behind Winterbottom at the safety car, a strategy call which left him scrapping around with the Volvo of James Moffat for 19th and 20th place before engine troubles forced him back to pit lane. The decision to send Waters back out to collect some valuable points eventually came to a fruitless end after an oil leak from Waters’ engine caused the end of race drama which saw Davison inherit the race lead. That being said, Waters’ retirement was no fault of his own and he certainly had the pace to challenge in the top ten. He drops to 13th in the championship table but his rapidly growing reputation remains steadfast. Surely it’s only a matter of time before we see him on the podium?
Red Bull Racing
I think Red Bull are definitely amongst the biggest losers on Sunday although a 1,2 on Saturday does a little to ease the pain. Both Whincup and SVG had the pace to finish on the podium until a rare error from Whincup on cold tyres down at the hairpin took him out of contention. Even after having to stack behind SVG, Whincup was in contention for some big points.
SVG was unfortunate to slip on the oil down at the hairpin and this was certainly 150 points lost for the Kiwi, who was classified as a DNF and slips to 7th in the table, 70 points off the championship lead. On race pace I think SVG and Whincup were among the fastest three or four cars all weekend but we can all be sure that both drivers will be right back amongst the podium finishers at Philip Island.