I almost don’t want the Ipswich SuperSprint to happen, purely because it means we have to go almost a month without Supercars until the series resumes at Sydney Motorsport Park following the cancellation of Kuala Lumpur. That being said, I do love it when we have rounds just two weeks apart and it’ll be fascinating to see the state of play at Queensland Raceway following the dramatic end to the Townsville 400. I must admit, after 2015 I honestly expected Prodrive to put in a stronger performance in Townsville but I think the fact that Frosty scored two podium finishes just highlights how much the field has closed up in this current cycle of regulations, something which is also evident from just how close the qualifying laps times are. In some ways I think it’ll be a shame to see COTF end, but with most (if not all) of the teams looking like sticking with the current regs for 2017 then we can at least enjoy one more season of mind blowingly close racing before the bigger teams exercise their budgets to jump ahead.
Triple Eight and Prodrive Will Lead The Way
The cream often rises to the top, and I think that’s now what we’re starting to see in this season’s championship race. Although many of the plaudits went the way of Frosty and PRA last season at QR I don’t think Tim Edwards’ squad will enjoy the same level of domination this year, I think Triple Eight will be very strong. After joining the Townsville also rans in 2015, Triple Eight (more accurately Red Bull Racing) were fantastic at Townsville in 2016 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them catch PRA at QR as well. That being said, I think Winterbottom and Mostert will be strong, but I think they’ll certainly have more than Craig Lowndes for company like they did in 2015. I expect Whincup to be firing on all cylinders after taking one for the team on Sunday in Townsville, and SVG who didn’t have the best of times at QR last season will certainly be up among the top five.
It’s vital that Mostert takes points off Triple Eight if Frosty is to have any chance of defending his title this season and we finally began to see glimpses of that partnership blossoming once again on Saturday in Townsville. After coming back from his horrific injury Mostert has had a terribly inconsistent season but has often fallen down the order as a result of factors outside his control. Luck certainly hasn’t been on the side of the #55 in the first half of the season but at a track where PRA have traditionally been strong could we finally see his long overdue addition to the 2016 winners list? Possibly, but PRA need to ensure they can match Triple Eight’s race pace.
Important Round for McLaughlin and Davison
McLaughlin and Davison are the two outsiders in this season’s title fight, but they both need incredible weekends to stay in touch at the top. I know there’s plenty of points still up for grabs this season but I can’t see Triple Eight or Frosty making a hash of things on too many an occasion so it’s vital that both drivers keep pace at the front. McLaughlin scored a well deserved podium finish on Saturday at QR in 2015 and will be coming to Ipswich this season fresh off a good comeback on Sunday in Townsville. Davison finished 5th and 11th last time out, but sitting in sixth place in the championship you would feel he needs a double podium or at least a win to start gaining ground on the top three.
Where Next for HRT?
Courtney’s charge through the field last Sunday was one of the highlights of the Townsville weekend but I can’t see HRT being as strong at QR. Both JC and GT are always strong at Townsville, and HRT are quite clearly becoming street circuit specialists but I think it’s vital that we see at least top ten finishes. After what can only be described as a very poor start to the season the whole Supercars community is eagerly watching to see what HRT can come up with at QR, especially considering Courtney finished 6th, 8th and 6th there last year in what were his final races before the Gold Coast. I think a repeat of last year’s finishes could be considered a relative success although it’s still nowhere near where a team like HRT should be.
Garth Tander needs a strong round after some brilliant racing but now commonplace poor qualifying let him down in Townsville. Both JC and GT’s contracts are up this year but I think out of the two Tander is under the greatest pressure to perform. With Pye now available it’ll be fascinating to see what happens and although it would be sad to see Tander given the boot from HRT, he needs some strong results to prove his worth. I’m sure he can do it, he just needs to improve in qualifying.