Barbagallo Raceway plays host to round four of the 2016 V8 Supercars Championship. The series arrives in Perth in a unique flux where merely days after a naming rights deal with Virgin Australia was announced, Polestar and Volvo Cars Australia announced their withdrawal from the sport at the end of the 2016 season, a disappointing decision, especially after Volvo’s clean sweep of Philip Island last time out. It’s sad to see Garry Rodgers Motorsport have the rug pulled from beneath their feet. For a team which has unearthed many a talent in the V8SC field to be left without any cars and engines (currently) for 2016 is worrying to say the least, but I have every confidence that GRM will survive, but I’m not sure if that will now be with or without Scott McLaughlin.
I’m sure his, and GRM’s future will be hotly debated over the coming weeks however that’s a discussion which can begin after the Perth weekend. Below, you can find some of the questions and talking points ahead of the the Perth SuperSprint this coming weekend.
People will be keen to see an on track reaction from GRM
McLaughlin and GRM controlled the Philip Island weekend in a way we hadn’t seen them do since 2014. Whilst there will be plenty of off track attention for GRM this weekend I’m sure everyone at the team will be eager to let results on track do the talking with potential manufacturers and sponsors for next season still waiting in the wings. It wasn’t just McLaughlin which put in a strong performance last time out. James Moffat enjoyed his best weekend since joining GRM at the start of the season with a seventh placed finish on Saturday confirming that the pace is certainly there.
A perfect response to the departure of Volvo would be to make the podium again this weekend, and I certainly think that’s possible. McLaughlin had a torrid time at Barbagallo in 2015 with an 11th, DNF and 18th place over the course of the weekend’s three races but with GRM looking to be well back among the frontrunners at this early stage in the 2016 season, V8SC’s wanted man is exactly the guy Garry Rodgers needs to carry the team through their last season as a Volvo outfit.
Can PRA finally crack Victory Lane?
Barbagallo was where the PRA Falcons began to come alive last season as Winterbottom and Mostert began their incredible run of race victories and podiums which stretched all the way to Bathurst. Despite not yet taking a win this season, Winterbottom sits third in the championship after some consistent results and the pace Mostert and Cam Waters have shown far outweighs their lowly championship positions of 16th and 18th respectively. Mostert was on course for a podium on Saturday at the Island until a tyre blowout elevated DJRTP’s Fabian Coulthard to the final podium spot.
At a track where PRA have traditionally been fast, I wouldn’t be surprised to at least one of Frosty or Mostert feature on the podium at some point over the course of the weekend but whether they can convert their fast qualifying pace to race victories remains to be seen. PRA’s other car, the #6 Monster Energy Falcon of Cam Waters had a difficult time of it of late, after engine dramas destroyed his chances of finishing it what looked like a very strong position on Sunday in Tasmania. Philip Island was difficult for Waters and he spent the majority of the weekend back in the lower end of the midfield but a Perth track which seems to suit the Falcon I would expect to see him back at the front end of the field. Yet again, that all depends on how well Waters with his (relative) inexperience can manage his tyres on a notoriously tyre hungry track.
HRT need to bounce back
HRT have had a couple of difficult weekends of late, and with rumours beginning to swirl around Courtney, Tander and the team itself it’s vital that HRT have a strong weekend, especially with Holden yet to commit post 2016. HRT didn’t exactly set the world alight at Barbagallo last season, in fact they haven’t for a number of years but they really do need to start getting some strong results. The fact that Tander and Courtney both still sit inside the championship’s top ten in largely down to their form at the Clipsal 500 and both drivers have finished inside the top ten on just two occasions since.
I said before that I still believe Courtney and Tander are some of the best racers in the field, and the race pace of the HRT Commodore isn’t too bad at all, but its qualifying which keeps on letting them down, and you can’t be a poor qualifier when you want to be competing for championships. Especially in a grid as competitive as this. Both HRT’s are capable of racing inside the top ten, but will their qualifying form let them down again?
The attention turns to Nissan
With Volvo now gone, all the attention now turns to Nissan Motorsport and Holden as we wait for an announcement about their future in V8 Supercars. Three Nissan Altimas sit inside the championship’s top eleven and they certainly have shown a marked improvement this season. Michael Caruso ran inside the top ten on Sunday at Philip Island but we’re still waiting for Nissan to make that leap from regular top ten finishers to race winners. It is perhaps the hardest leap at make but I feel that unless it happens soon, then we might not be seeing four Kelly Racing run Altimas in the championship next season.
Rick Kelly has said he wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan had been approached by every team in the pitlane, and if that’s the case then the Kellys should be a little worried. Rick Kelly ran well at Barbagallo last season, and whilst I don’t think Nissan will move backwards it’s going to be a huge ask to finish on the podium, but a top five finish should certainly be the target for Caruso or Rick Kelly at some point over the weekend.