With the 2014 V8 Supercar season off to a flying start, Australian freelance motorsport journalist Tom Worsley brings us up to speed with who’s gone where and what it means for this year. Tom is no stranger to the series having grown up with it and has previously written for NZ Racer and is the former editor of V8Monthly.com.
If the Clipsal 500 is anything to go by, we are in for one hell of a year of V8 Supercars. Last year we saw an array of different winners scattered throughout the year and from three races in 2014 we have already seen three different winners.
Granted, some of you may be thinking, “Yes but it’s still Triple Eight at the front,” but it looks as if this could be the year they are challenged.
Over the 2013/14 off-season there was a number of changes up and down pit lane – both driver and personnel related. The key changes for this year weren’t drivers though – it was team managers. Already the three most high profile changes have thrown up a few sparks of what could be this year.
First – a quick overview: Triple Eight’s former manager Adrian Burgess has moved to Holden Racing Team and replaces Steve Hallam who has gone to the now one car Tekno Autosports.
Whincup’s former engineer Mark Dutton has stepped up to replace Burgess at Triple Eight with David Cauchi now looking after Whincup while Tekno’s former man Bruce Jenkins is currently nowhere to be seen.
But what does this all mean? Well for Triple Eight – business as usual. Promoting Dutton from within the team will mean day-to-day running of the team will be pretty much the same. Roland Dane has essentially groomed Dutton so don’t expect to see any changes there. No doubt Dutton will take the mentality, ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ After all, it seems to be working for Red Bull Racing Australia.
HRT’s change comes off the back of a massive three-year reform. Again over the off-season there has been a management restructure. Don’t be surprised to see a more hierarchical line of command implemented at the team under the leadership of Burgess. Interestingly, Burgess has the prospect of winning three championships with as many teams; having already won titles at Dick Johnson Racing with James Courtney and at Triple Eight with Jamie Whincup.
Tekno Autosports finds itself in a slightly different position to the other two in this engineering triangle. The move to one car has introduced a new chink in the armour – a shared pit boom with the Brad Jones Racing car of Dale Wood. So? Well it means that other than race weekends, pitstops can only be practiced with the full crew on race weekends. Just cast your mind back to when Ford Performance Racing ran three and not four cars. No matter how quick David Reynolds was on track, there seemed to always be hold ups in pit lane.
So who are the ones to watch this year? Chaz Mostert, Scott Pye, Nick Percat, Scott McLaughlin (I promise I’m not just listing the contenders for the 2012 Dunlop Series), Robert Dahlgren, Will Davison, Garth Tander and James Courtney.
Interestingly enough, of the four graduates from the 2012 Dunlop Series: McLaughlin, Mostert, Pye and Percat, two are in factory drives with Mostert at FPR and McLaughlin at Volvo, one is in a pseudo factory drive with Percat at Walkinshaw Racing – the sister team of Holden Racing Team and Pye is now in a sound team environment.
All four drivers have raw talent and are really starting to show their wears.
Mostert and Percat are old sparring partners from Formula Ford so don’t be shocked if a rivalry develops over the next few years.
Newcomer Dahlgren will need to find his feet quickly in order to avoid being cast in the write off pile like other international drivers in the past have – guys like Maro Engel and his predecessor Alex Premat. However, learning these cars along with a whole set of new tracks will be a tough ask for him.
A lot of eyes will be on Will Davison this year because of his move to Erebus Motorsport. The Mercedes squad this year has proven it has pace but luck in Adelaide definitely did not go its way. However, it would seem there is more to this deal than meets the eye. Perhaps the move was not entirely about V8 Supercars. Think bigger motorsport picture here.
As for James Courtney and Garth Tander, well they need to perform. It has been a shocking few years for HRT and although there has been some great moments, on the whole it’s been a tough time. Courtney has familiar faces around him while most of Tander’s comrades have moved on in their careers. While HRT maintains there will be no favouritism between the two drivers there is already signs it will be Courtney running in front for the most part.
Tander was unlucky with damage at Clipsal but you have to wonder how frustrated he’s become with all the things rolling against him of late. Could 2014 be his final year at the Holden works team?
It’s obvious 2014 has a lot to play out. The question on everyone’s minds though it who can unseat the dominant force of the last half decade – Triple Eight? Or will we see the popular bridesmaid of the past few seasons Craig Lowndes unseat his teammate from the Champion’s throne?
Should maybe wait another 35 races to answer that one.