The Super2 ‘Wildcard’ initiative
Rebranded as Dunlop Super2 for 2017, the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s second-tier development category underwent significant changes ahead of the new season – none more so than the decision to give Super2 runners the opportunity to race wildcard entries at select events in the main-game.
Why has the Supercars Commission introduced a new ‘Wildcard’ entry program?
Following the introduction of the Next Generation chassis into the second-tier Dunlop Super2 Series in 2016 easing the transition between the two series, the ‘wildcard’ scheme aims to align the category more closely align with its parent series.
It provides teams with the option of running an eligible driver in two out of four SuperSprint rounds of the Supercars Championship. This is separate to the existing opportunity of fielding a wildcard entry in the Bathurst 1000.
The initiative is also a positive step in furthering the development of young drivers. It provides Super2 drivers experience in the SuperSprint events which bring a different intensity to that of the Enduro Cup rounds. For others it gives them their first full experience of Supercars’ top-tier category.
It’s also a logical step for Supercars and its racing program, as it looks to bring through the next generation of drivers and provide them with the opportunity to showcase their talent.
Who is eligible to enter as a Wildcard?
Entries are open to any team and driver that is either currently competing in the Dunlop Super2 Series or has previously raced in the development series for at least one season.
Entrants are permitted to run in a maximum of two out of the four championship events – the Perth SuperSprint at Barbagallo Raceway, the Winton SuperSprint at Winton Motor Raceway, the Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley Raceway, and the Ipswich SuperSprint at Queensland Raceway. All wildcards entrants are subject to approval from the Supercars Commission.
Garaging restrictions limit the number of wildcards to two at Barbagallo Raceway and four each at Winton Motor Raceway, Hidden Valley and Queensland Raceway.
What happens once a SuperSprint Wildcard is granted?
Once approved, a wildcard entry is allocated a test day ahead of each event to enable small changes to be made to the Super2 car so as to match those in the main series. It also provides the entrant the opportunity to familiarise themselves with Dunlop’s 2017 tyre which this year is different to that used in Super2.
Three sets of tyres can be purchased for the test and practice at the entrants first event, while a further four tyres are also allowed for the practice sessions.
The wildcards also need to qualify within 105 percent of the pole time to be permitted a start.
Who are the 2017 SuperSprint Wildcard entries and where will they race?
The Supercars Commission has so far confirmed five drivers are set to join the Virgin Australian Supercars Championship as SuperSprint wildcards this season. These are current Super2 drivers Macauley Jones, Jack Le Brocq, Shae Davies and Todd Hazelwood, and former Super2 driver and current Garry Rogers Motorsport enduro driver, James Golding.
|Perth SuperSprint||Winton SuperSprint||Darwin Triple Crown||Ipswich SuperSprint|
Brad Jones Racing
Brad Jones Racing
|-||Jack le Brocq|
|Jack le Brocq|
Matt Stone Racing
Garrry Rogers Motorsport
Garry Rogers Motorsport
For Jones, Le Brocq and Golding the opportunity to race solo in the sprint events represents a logical step on the Supercars ladder having already tasted action as endurance co-drivers.
Jones, son of team owner Brad Jones, will make his sprint debut at Winton and Darwin in the team’s fourth entry. The 22-year-old has co-driven in the last two endurance campaigns, with Dale Wood in 2015 and Tim Blanchard in 2016, finishing in a very respectable 10th position at the Bathurst 1000 last year.
Le Brocq, who has taken on a newly-created ‘reserve driver’ role with the factory Nissan team this year, will pilot the #28 Nissan Altima at Darwin and Queensland Raceway. The 24-year-old has spent the past three years racing in the Dunlop Series, finishing third and second overall in the 2015 and 2016 standings. He also co-drove alongside Ash Walsh with Erebus Mercedes in the 2015 Pirtek Enduro Cup and this year will join Todd Kelly in his endurance season campaign.
Golding will join the field at the Winton and Queensland Raceway SuperSprint events. The 21-year-old missed out on a drive in both the main and second-tier teams at Garry Rogers Motorsport this year, but will join Garth Tander in the 2017 Pirtek Enduro Cup, after driving alongside James Moffat in last year’s enduros.
Meanwhile Davies, having made his top-flight debut in the second half of the 2016 season replacing Aaren Russell at Erebus Motorsport, it’s an opportunity to prove his Supercar credentials after a tough initiation netted a best finish of 17th place. The Queenslander has joined the second-tier Super2 Series for 2017 piloting a MW Motorsport Nissan, and will compete as a wildcard at the Winton and Queensland Raceway SuperSprint events.
For Hazelwood, who continues to impress in his fourth season in the Dunlop Series, his wildcard entry at Queensland Raceway marks his first race in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship as well as that of his Matt Stone Racing team.