A newly resurfaced Winton raceway was the stage of the fifth round of the championship, further showing consistency will be the key in this season. A surprising performance from a first time-winner was the highlight of the weekend while some of the big names struggled to come to grips in the cold.
- Tim Slade provided one of the best breakthrough performances in recent history. After being stuck in a rut for the first portion of the season, Slade backed up his recent speed at the Winton in-season test with pole position on Saturday. A commanding drive on Saturday provided the South Australian with his first win in over 220 race starts. He then amazingly repeated the performance on Sunday, showing the kind of maturity and outright speed of Jamie Whincup in years gone by. In the process, he became the ninth different winner of the year, giving Brad Jones Racing their first win of the season.
- Mark Winterbottom may not have won a race over the weekend but two podium finishes and sizeable gaps to his championship rivals has put him on top of the points standings. The reigning champion couldn’t take the fight to Slade but made the best of the situation to drive home to gather good points. His speed, consistency and qualifying pace have arguably put him in a better position to challenge for the championship than last year.
- David Reynolds had a less than stellar performance in Saturday’s race which was not noteworthy but his Sunday drive raised some eyebrows. After struggling so far this season, Reynolds embarrassed the two Holden factory entries in a car which was built by them two seasons ago. Despite all being able to test at Winton, it was the Erebus driver who came out on top in the longer of the two races. Hopefully this speed will mean a return to form for the ex-Prodrive racer.
- The Holden Racing Team must be wondering what it is about Winton that brings out the worst in them. After James Courtney took himself and Garth Tander out last year, both drivers failed to score a top ten finish this round. Courtney finished 19th and 25th while Tander struggled for 24th and 12th. From their early season pace at Adelaide, the team has been left to scratch their heads as they struggle to find pace. As Russell Ingall remarked, the team is doing a great job of making a fast car slow.
- Triple Eight Race Engineering may not have been struggling too much in the mid-pack but they aren’t living up to the hype that was promised at the beginning of the year. The Whincup vs Van Gisbergen battle has hardly sparked at the front of the field and Lowndes has been through many hit and miss results. Somehow, even on the days they aren’t at the front, the team is still able to scavenge points as their three drivers all sit in the top 5 of the championship.
- Chaz Mostert might have recovered his qualifying pace from his crash at Bathurst last year but his inconsistency in the races is going to cost him dearly this year. A seventh place finish in Saturday’s race wasn’t bad but his failure to convert pole into a good result on Sunday hurt his points haul. Coming home in 20th place, Mostert still has the backing of boss Tim Edwards but must realistically change his aggressive, thrills and spills style to something more relaxed if he is to get back to being at the front of the field. A poor start and incidents hampered his Sunday race, leaving the man who could have been champion last year back in 12th place in the points.
Next up is a long break while the teams regroup and debrief. The series then jets off to Hidden Valley Raceway in the Northern Territory where everyone gets to escape the winter cold. While Prodrive dominated last year, Triple Eight will be looking to fight at the front of the field again.