Monday, August 28, 2006

V8 Supercars Mid-Season Roast

Well, not so much a roast (although some drivers in the Australian V8 Championship deserve it), more a "where are we at?" round-up before the endurance races...

As usual, it's a Ford team versus a Holden team for bragging rights at the top, but a look at the teams standings reveals that it's not as it has been in previous years. You'd expect that the factory Holden Racing Team would be scrapping with top Ford outfit Stone Brothers Racing, but in fact it's the Toll HSV Holdens that are up against Betta Electrical's Fords. And this is reflected in the driver standings too: Betta Electrical's Craig Lowndes leads Toll HSV's Rick Kelly and Garth Tander. All three drivers have had a cracking year, and it's virtually certain that one of these three will take the crown.

So the news is really more about who's underachieving. So in reverse order, the top seven "Shouldn't you be doing much better Fastest Lap Blog award":

  • SEVEN: Steven Richards - Richo was the model of consistency last year, but this year has found himself slightly off the pace. He also had a bad couple of rounds in Darwin (rd 5) and Oran Park (rd 7). His calm, professional approach should stand him in good stead for the enduros however...
  • SIX: James Courtney - In a season that somewhat mirrors the season the bloke he replaced is having in NASCAR, Courtney struggled to finish races early on but has now found the podium. There's no doubt he has talent, but his various huge crashes early on will demand strong finishes towards the end, in order to get a good place in the championship.
  • FIVE: Russell Ingall - "The Enforcer" hasn't been doing much enforcing this year, and has found himself in a Richo-style top 10 groove, with no wins. He simply doesn't have the pace this year, despite learning good lessons about consistency during last year's championship-winning run.
  • FOUR: Jason Bright - Brighty is the perennial hot/cold driver in the series. Sometimes he's terrific (witness his great run in 2004) and sometimes he completely loses the plot. The first three races found him in exactly that scenario, which is made worse by the fact his young team-mate Mark Winterbottom has found some great pace and is now a regular front-runner.
  • THREE: Todd Kelly - What can you say about a guy who has broken multiple gearsticks this season? They need to feed the boy less spinach or something, because he seems to be the only guy out there who breaks gearsticks. As HRT try to redesign the thing it creates more problems, and this, more than anything else, is the reason the Toddler languishes in 18th place.
  • TWO: Mark Skaife - Skaifey is having one of those bad-luck seasons. Last year his driving looked very ordinary, and he deserved his average results. This year he's back on pace, but either by crashes (taken out by Greg Murphy at Adelaide) or mechanicals (gearbox failure last week at Oran Park), the guy can't seem to catch a break. He's becoming the Kimi Raikkonen on V8 Supercars.
  • ONE: Greg Murphy - I'll make no bones about it, I'm a big Greg Murphy fan. So it pains me to see the guy who took his place at the HSV team, Garth Tander, in 3rd place, whilst Murph struggles with a car that couldn't stick to racetrack if it was nailed in place. Let's not pull any punches here: the SuperCheap Autos team is bloody awful and so are their cars, and Murph made a massive error in switching teams to join them. Hopefully he can find somewhere "betta" to go next year.
As you can see, having both Stone Brothers drivers and both HRT drivers in my Hall of Shame illustrates why those teams are off the pace. Happily, the two endurance races tend to turn everything on its head, and a number of these drivers have the experience to make the best of Sandown and Bathurst. After that, there's still four other sprint rounds, so it's certainly not over yet...

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