There’s a common phrase which now perfectly describes Tim Slade’s career up until this point, when you’re waiting for what seems like an age to catch a bus, and then two turn up at once! Slade and Brad Jones Racing (BJR) scored another popular victory in Sunday’s 200km race around Winton Motor Raceway on a day where some of the championship’s big players faltered, and Mark Winterbottom took the championship lead for the first time this season. There was some great action, and some fantastic strategy calls up and down the field, and below you can find my assessment of some of the biggest talking points from the Winton SuperSprint.
Slade does the double
After finishing inside the top ten on just three previous occasions in 2016, Tim Slade and BJR did the double at Winton and two race victories has seen Slade shoot up to 7th place in the championship table, ahead of some very big players. Following on from his assured maiden race win on Saturday, Slade got away cleanly from 4th on the grid and some strong laps in his penultimate stint ensured he rejoined the race ahead of Winterbottom and never looked backed. The championship now has a few weeks break before resuming in Darwin, a track at which BJR have traditionally gone well and Slade will surely now be looking at achieving regular top ten finishes on a weekend where he suddenly clicked in his new environment.
I doubt there’s many fans, or people in the the pitlane who aren’t happy to see the family run BJR do the double and although a consistent challenge for wins might be just out of reach, becoming only the second driver to win more than one race in a massively competitive 2016 season can serve as a brilliant springboard to stronger results throughout the second half of 2016.
Prodrive nearly make it click
Apart from Frosty’s victory last time out in Perth, Sunday’s race had the potential to be one of PRA’s strongest races for some time as Winterbottom again put in a champion’s drive to finish on the podium for the third race in a row, and Cam Waters recovered from a disappointing opening few laps to finish in 5th, his best finish since the Clipsal 500. PRA were dominant last year at Winton, and once again the Falcon was among the most competitive cars in the field but again, Chaz Mostert fell backwards in the race and after contact with James Courtney after the restart finished in 20th place, hardly the strongest conversion from his third pole position of the season.
I mentioned in yesterday’s Saturday wrap that I think Nissan are missing the final piece of the jigsaw, and it seems at the moment that something similar is happening with Mostert. Of course, a full recovery from that horrific Bathurst accident will take time but it’s becoming a frequent occurrence that Mostert is tumbling backwards down the order during the races. He was unfortunate to lose out on a podium at Philip Island due to a tyre blowout and as things stand sits 12th in the championship, over 300 points off the lead. Clearly luck hasn’t been on Mostert’s side in 2016 but with the championship already slipping away from the #55, he needs his luck to change if he wants to be anywhere near the championship hunt come the halfway stage of the season.
A disaster Sunday for HRT
For a weekend which promised so much, HRT again leave on Sunday evening fully in the land of what could have been. Yet again, Courtney and Tander had good race pace, and both cars drove a great opening lap but yet again, both were let down by a terrible qualifying performance. Speaking to Greg Rust on the grid, Courtney looked like a dejected and beaten driver and I’m sure everyone at HRT will be scratching their heads in the post race debrief, especially after having their so called eureka moment in the Winton test just a matter of two weeks ago.
Tander finished 12th, and Courtney 25th after heavy contact with Mostert after the safety car restart and it’s safe to say that the 2010 champ won’t be buying anyone at Prodrive drinks anytime soon after contact with Cam Waters on Saturday, although both clashes could be described as racing incidents. GT remains in the championship’s top ten in 8th place and Courtney falls to 12th as a result of a disastrous weekend at Winton Raceway and with no news yet of Holden’s future plans in the category I fear the clock may be ticking on HRT’s time to prove their worth as a Holden factory team. I hope I’m wrong, the championship would be a very strange place without HRT, and that’s coming from a neutral!
Well done David Reynolds
After a challenge for the championship in 2015, David Reynolds has quietly slipped under the radar at Erebus this season however like in Adelaide, he once again proved his worth with a fantastic drive to 6th. We haven’t seen too much of Reynolds so far this year but it was a welcome to return to the sharp end of the field for the Penrite Erebus entry, made even sweeter by his recovery from a disappointing qualifying. Reynolds currently sits in 17th place in the championship, above some big names with factory drives and has scored over double the amount of points than his rookie teammate Aaren Russell, a fine indication of just what strong job he’s doing over at Erebus Motorsport.
I still find it a little confusing that Reynolds was dropped by PRA at the end of last season, especially when he won his fair share of races and finished third in the championship but he seems to really fit the atmosphere at vision at Erebus and like with many of the smaller teams in the paddock, it would be great to see them get off to a flying start with Gen2 in 2017. They haven’t got anywhere near the strongest equipment in the field but like with BJR, it’s brilliant to see another small team with good drivers punch above their weight from time to time, and shows just what a competitive category Supercars is.