Lowndes’s drive through the field on fresher tyres will go down as one of the highlights of the season. Midway through the race the decision by Lowndes and Ludo to make a second pitstop for new slick tyres turned out to be one of the most inspired calls of the season so far, and again highlighted the importance on being on the freshest rubber in the closing laps of the race, something Brad Jones Racing had so aptly demonstrated in Tasmania and at Philip Island. Seven different race winners from eight races is testament to just how competitive V8 Supercars is this season and below you can find my assessment of some of the highlights from Saturday’s 50 lap race in Perth.
He’s still got it!
What a comeback drive through the field that was for the #888. It looked as though Lowndes was falling backwards in the opening laps of the race as most of the top ten struggled for grip on a drying track however come the end, it was the rest of the field who were left in awe after what has to go down as the strategy call of the season so far. Even the sister Red Bull Racing garage were left puzzled as Ludo called in Lowndes 20 laps from the end, when the prospect of more rain and an inevitable pitstop threatened however Team Vortex gambled with the weather, and it paid off in fine style, even if the heavens did open on the final lap.
Team Vortex’s maiden V8SC victory helps Lowndes move up to second place in the championship, just 15 points behind Whincup as Triple Eight secured another triple podium with Will Davison also coming home in fourth. To come from 22nd place, over 30 seconds off the lead shows just how critical tyre degradation is at Barbagallo, and it also shows just how important having a driver and race engineer with experience really is.
A Saturday to forget for Tim Edwards
You have to say, if the race came to Triple Eight, it certainly went away from PRA. Winterbottom has been the epitome of consistency in previous races but following a rare error mid race, Winterbottom ended up down in 22nd place by the checkered flag after being turned around by Dale Wood at the final turn on his way into the pits. When PRA bolted on some fresh tyres Winterbottom had some incredible pace, passing the whole gaggle of leading cars to uplap himself however it was a case of too little, too late on an afternoon to forget for the reigning champion.
Chaz Mostert and Cam Waters had little to celebrate either, after what looked to be a PRA double podium from Waters’ first main game pole position turned into a 12th and 13th place respectively. In the dry, I think the PRA Falcon is easily amongst the fastest cars at Barbagallo as we saw last year, however we also saw last year just how much the Falcon FGX drops off once it hurts it’s tyres. Had Mostert and Waters passed SVG early on after the pitstops it may have been a different story, but this was certainly a race, and a result to forget for Prodrive.
Nevertheless, Chris Pither drove an excellent race to eight in the Super Black Racing Falcon after what has been a difficult start to the season.
HRT back in the top ten
After a dismal couple of rounds in Tasmania and at Philip Island I’m sure everyone at HRT will be relieved to see Courtney and Tander back in the top ten, and taking the fight to their competitors. Tander finished 5th, and Courtney 6th on a day where at one stage in the race, it even looked like one of the two HRT Commodores would make it onto the podium. Saturday’s results ensure Tander and Courtney remain well inside the the championship’s top ten and they pulled some great overtaking moves on the likes of Mostert and Waters in the closing stages of the race. The sets of tyres on both cars seemed to go off in the final few laps, halting their charge through the field however it was a good days work for HRT who look to have found some extra pace after testing last week.
Nissan are keeping consistent and Todd Kelly has been impressive
It seems odd to be writing that Todd Kelly is one of Nissan’s top performers this season, but after a few difficult years it seems that in 2016 at least, he’s a lot closer to the pace of Rick Kelly and Michael Caruso. Caruso had a torrid time during today’s race but the two Kellys drove solid and clean races to finish inside the top ten, with Todd in 7th and Rick in 9th. It was nice to see another strong drive from Todd, especially after some people were beginning to think he should be hanging up his driving boots and it’ll certainly be interesting to see where the three Altimas of Kelly, Kelly and Caruso end up towards the end of the season, I think all three are capable of finishing inside the top ten.
As much as he comes across as a lovely guy, Dale Wood still seems a little out of his depth at this level of Motorsport and it leaves me thinking if having one horrendously under performing car will harm chances of Nissan remaining a four car operation next season. All four Altimas are clearly capable of top ten finishes, and I can’t help but feel that if James Moffat was still in the car that’s what we would be seeing on a regular basis. Of course, Nissan must balance finances with performance but it must be frustrating to not be able to maximise the full potential of the package.