It’s safe to say that we’ve seen an incredible few months of racing in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship and it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. We’re now over halfway through the season in terms of rounds, and I’m going to take the time over the Supercars mid season break to give my verdict on every driver and team in the championship – starting today with Triple Eight.
Overall, I think Triple Eight have once again, been pretty impressive. The switch from two to three cars although not without it’s hiccups has certainly been a successful one and two championship 1,2,3 finishes with the most recent coming at Queensland Raceway is a mark of just how well Roland Dane drills his troops. Lowndes’s race engineer Ludo has been a fantastic sideshow to races on Saturday and Sunday and let’s be frank, the team are only going to get stronger and more efficient as the season goes on. They’ll be extremely difficulty to beat and have reminded us all once again just why they sit at VASC’s top table.
Championship Position: 1st. Race Wins: 2
I wouldn’t say I’m surprised to see Whincup heading the table coming into the winter break (or summer break here in the UK). J-Dub had a fantastic start to the season at the Clipsal 500 and backed his pace up with consistent form and podiums at Symmons Plains, Philip Island and Barbagallo before Winton where he failed to reach the podium for the first time in 2016. Whincup was back on top form at Darwin, Townsville and Queensland and whilst teammate SVG has taken many of the plaudits for race wins in recent rounds Whincup’s consistency has seen him sail to the top of the table and just one win shy of the magical 100, which I fully expect him to reach this year.
In terms of championship prospects I think we can all say that Whincup remains one of, if not the favourite for the 2016 drivers title and with the six time champion lining up once again with Paul Dumbrell for the enduros, team #88 has every chance of coming out of the Gold Coast in the championship lead. Would I be surprised if Whincup won the title? No, but I think the other drivers in the Triple Eight garage could push him all the way. It’s a mark of just how strong team and driver are when despite a far from perfect opening half of the season you still lead the championship by 110 points, but all it takes is one bad round.
Shane Van Gisbergen
Championship Position: 2nd Race Wins: 4
SVG has his critics immediately after Adelaide but the man who seems to racing in a different country every week looks like he’s finally starting to find his feet at Triple Eight. Race wins in each of the last three rounds have catapulted SVG to 2nd place in the championship standings, and it could have even been higher had he not retired from what looked like a race victory back at Symmons Plains all those races ago. Although Whincup and Lowndes have the experience running in championship battles in championship winning outfit I don’t expect that to faze SVG coming into the closing half of the season. The Kiwi looks like he’s more than capable of handling the pressure and the #97 has treated us to some great racing over the course of the season so far, his battle with Mostert in Townsville being one of the highlights.
I don’t want to seem like I’m jumping on the bandwagon, but to really assess SVG’s championship credentials I think we’re going to have to wait until after the enduros. Premat at Triple Eight is an unknown quantity, and with SVG up against the likes of Whincup/Dumbrell, Lowndes/Richards and even Winterbottom/Canto it’s going to be vital that the Triple Eight new boys register four consistent top five finishes over the long distance races. If SVG’s still in the game come Pukekhoe he could go all the way, but it won’t be easy with three other champions for company.
Championship Position: 4th Race Wins: 2
Lowndes is like a fine vintage wine, he seems to just be getting better and better with age. With JW and SVG for company you would think Lowndes could be forgiven for failing to keep the pace this season but the people’s favourite is once again slap bang in the middle of the championship fight and has every chance of winning it. With Ludo in the garage calling some crazy but genius strategy calls TeamVortex are a formidable force in the this year’s championship and it seems to me that Lowndes is thriving away from the attention in the Red Bull Racing garage. CL’s win at Barbagallo is sure to go down as one of the highlights of the season, and I have no doubt Lowndes is more than capable of adding to his current tally of two race wins. The #888 was by far and away the class of the field at Queensland Raceway last time out, and his start to beat Whincup off the line in Sunday’s race was a firm reminder than CL has lost none of his skill and sharpness.
With Bathurst and the enduros on the horizon Lowndes and Richards are in the perfect position to reel in all of Whincup, SVG and Winterbottom but to even consistently challenge right at the top of Supercars year after year for as long as he has is an amazing feat in itself.