Throughout the VASC mid season break I’m going down the pit lane team by team and assessing the performance of every car and driver. Following on from my reviews of Triple Eight and Prodrive last week today I’ve taken a look at HRT who have surely had one of their most disappointing seasons in recent memory. Read on to see my thoughts on their season so far.
To be quite honest, 2016 has been a mess for HRT. The start of the season at the Clipsal 500 was full of promise as Courtney and Tander bagged a 1st, 2nd and a 3rd over the weekend’s three races and despite a trademark good strategy call which lifted Courtney to the podium in Townsville there has been little to cheer about so far this year. BJR have won more races than HRT since COTF was introduced back in 2013, despite operating on what must be assumed a fraction of the budget and I think everyone up and down the pit lane has the right to be a little nervous about the team’s future as a manufacturer supported outfit next season. HRT’s current 5th place in the teams championship behind both Garry Rodgers Motorsport and BJR can’t be where the bosses at Holden want to see their factory team.
Whilst race pace has often been satisfactory, poor single lap pace in qualifying has let the team down time and time again with JC and GT often lining up towards the lower reaches of the top 20. Great things were expected of HRT following a number of engineering reshuffles, downsizing to two Walkinshaw cars, and repeated reports that the team thought this was “their year” yet Courtney and Tander find themselves in 10th and 12th in the championship, light years away from where they should be. There’s been a couple of positives hidden away in the storm which has surrounded the team this year such as some great strategy calls and the sterling race drives of JC and GT but on the whole it’s not been good enough, and I’m not sure just how much the team can catch up over the second half of the season.
Championship Position: 10th Race Wins: 1
Had the race run for a few more laps in Townsville it could well have been two race wins for Courtney so far in 2016 and despite HRT’s ambition to become “more than street circuit specialists”, that dream has so far failed to materialise. Courtney’s qualifying and overall performance has been marginally better than Tander’s and his race pace has yet again been strong but we’ve seen only glimpses of what JC is capable of in a car that’s all to often fighting in the midfield during the races.
Courtney’s results card reads a little better than Tander’s in recent races, largely thanks to good runs on Sunday in Darwin and at Townsville and Courtney and Perkins must surely be targeting a repeat win of their fantastic Gold Coast win that came towards the end of 2015. With his future still up in the air it will be fascinating to see where Courtney ends up next season, as with McLaughlin to DJR Team Penske confirmed JC is surely the next big name up for grabs. I’ve said before that I think Nissan would be a good fit for the 2010 champ, but much depends on Holden’s decision on their future in Supercars which I believe is expected towards the end of August.
My verdict on Courtney’s season so far? There’s been flashes of the champion we all know is under that helmet, but he’s been let down by a car which seems to go missing during qualifying sessions and at the moment that talent is being wasted. There’s no doubt that JC’s frustrated as when the car is on song the #22 can run comfortably at the front.
Championship Position: 12th Podiums: 1
I the feeling that regardless of Holden’s future commitment to Supercars, this is going to be Tander’s last season at HRT. The journalists on Inside Supercars last week certainly seem convinced of that and it’s hardly surprising when you consider just how much GT seems to be struggling to get a grip of what looks like a dog of a qualifying car this season. Personally, I think if Tander was to leave the team it would be a huge shame. He’s one of the best wheel to wheel racers out there and following his progress through the field during the races is often a great sideshow the race battle at the front, but it’s sad to see that Tander and HRT’s role has been reduced to just that, a sideshow for the race to the 2016 title.
Tander’s one podium came in the rain at the Clipsal 500 at the start of the year and since, his race weekends have been characterized by a poor qualifying and then a sterling drive back through the field to the lower the reaches of the top ten, with some door to door action squeezed in a along the way. I don’t want to address where Tander could end up next season, I’ve covered that in previous post but I think a condition of Holden renewing could be that they bring some fresh blood into the team – which has had a remarkably stable lineup since Courtney joined in 2011.
It’s such a shame to see Tander’s success at HRT continue this downward trajectory as I believe he certainly has the talent to win more than just the one VASC title he currently has to his name. But with a result card this season which reads
there isn’t much of a case for HRT to retain his services for another year and it would be interesting to see how someone in the vein of Scott Pye would get on at the team.
It’s fairly difficult to sum up Tander’s season so far, but some words which spring to mind are underwhelming and unlucky. Underwhelming because at times where the car has had the opportunity to run at the front like in Townsville a poor qualifying session (even relative to his teammate) has seen Tander start way down the field, and unlucky because for all his talent which we’ve seen on so many occasions in the past at what point in the last four of five seasons has he had a car capable of challenging for the championship?