It feels good to be back writing these previews again. After a couple of weeks off, Supercars heads to Queensland Raceway for Ipswich SuperSprint this weekend fresh off the back of a new, multi-year deal for the Queensland circuit. Whether you’re a fan of the circuit or not, the paperclip is set to stay on the Supercars calendar for at least the next 11 years with $53.2mil ready to spend on the circuit and surrounding area by Ipswich City Council. Ahead of the weekend, and a welcome return to regular blogging I’ve touched upon some things to think about ahead of this Saturday and Sunday.
A Race Win For Anyone Outside The Top Two Teams?
It’s hard to look past either Triple Eight of DJR Team Penske for any race wins this weekend, and as 2017’s only other race winning team, Prodrive look the team closest to challenging the top two for honours, and even they look a long way off. Last year’s event at Queensland Raceway was perhaps unsurprisingly dominated by Triple Eight, with the team taking a famous 1, 2, 3 on Saturday and a 1, 2, 4 on Sunday. With Lowndes yet to get off the mark in terms of race wins this year #888 could be an outside bet to reach the top step of the podium, but my money’s on it being a shootout between Whincup, Van-Gisbergen, McLaughlin and Coulthard for wins. Coulthard must improve his qualifying performances relative to McLaughlin to stay in contention with Triple Eight this weekend after a poor Townsville weekend saw him drop off the lead of the championship. Another disappointing weekend in a season as competitive as this one could spell disaster for Coulthard, or indeed any of the championship’s top four.
Mostert and Winterbottom have both performed well at Queensland Raceway in the past. With Mostert reaching the podium in race two last year, and as 2017’s only other race winner outside of Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske he should be well placed to capitalise on error errors up front, but with the step forward T8 and DJRTP have made this year I fear Prodrive will still lag some way behind in outright pace. Winterbottom put in a much-improved showing in Townsville with 3rd and 4th place finishes over the course of the weekend. With the car finally seemingly to his liking, it remains to be seen whether he can begin to turn around his fortunes after an underwhelming start to the year.
Can Reynolds And Erebus Keep Up The Pace?
I can’t be the only one thinking that Reynolds and Erebus are doing an outstanding job in 2017. With Reynolds 10th in the championship table coming into Queensland Raceway this weekend presents a great opportunity for Erebus to improve on their 21st and 23rd place finishes from 2016. Reynolds has finished in the top ten 9 times in the last 12 races and in a well set up Commodore I see no reason why the team can’t make that 11 from 14 this weekend. Whilst teammate Dale Wood hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success, Betty Klimenko’s team should be incredibly proud of the work they are doing, and Reynolds could be an outside bet for top five finish if strategies, safety cars and a whole host of other things go their way.
Season Reset For Brad Jones Racing
Brad Jones Racing haven’t quite managed to live up to their 2016 performances so far this year, but Queensland Raceway is a good an opportunity as any to press the reset switch on the season and start bagging fistfuls of top ten finishes. Slade and Percat are in close company in 14th and 15th in the championship table with just one podium and eight top ten finishes between them all season. Percat’s move to BJR in the off-season was rightly hailed by many as his time to shine, and although he hasn’t quite put in the jaw dropping performances that some of us expected, there’s still plenty of time to turn things round.
Tim Slade finished 6th and 7th last year at Queensland Raceway, with Percat registering a DSQ and a 20th in a rather less competitive Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Commodore. Slades’s performances from last year show that the BJR Commodore does have good pace round QR, but it will be up to both Slade and Percat to unlock that, and take advantage of any strategy mishaps or coming together’s which happen in the cars ahead. Both are capable of finishing in the top ten, but they’ll need to be on top of their game.
HSV Must Raise Their Game, But I Can’t See It Happening
HSV look completely lost at sea, and it’s such a sad sight to see a once great to reduced to backmarkers and scrapping for the occasional top ten finish. Queensland Raceway was the scene of Scott Pye’s huge off in practice last year and he recovered well to qualify 6th for race two on Sunday, and although he sits two places above teamCourtneyrtnry in this year’s championship, neither have had much to write home about. I can’t see any things improving this weekend over at HSV in terms of bagging more competitive results, but I’d love to be proved wrong.
Check back in for my post-race roundup next Sunday afternoon (or Monday morning if you’re in Australia!)