2011 V8 Supercars Season Review

The 2011 V8 Supercars championship season saw a thrilling battle over 28 races between two powerhouse drivers in the one powerhouse team, and ultimately, Jamie Whincup hung on to secure his third title from team-mate Craig Lowndes by a narrow margin.

Having claimed ten wins, Whincup should have romped home, but the veteran Lowndes kept him honest all year as they left the rest of the field in their wake.

Ford fans were left with little to cheer about, with the ‘Blue Oval’ claiming just three wins in a very Holden-dominated year.

Series organisers worked hard to spice things up by introducing mixed tyre compound races and alternating between the shorter sprints and longer endurance formats also did the trick.

Next year will be the championship’s last under the current regulations before the sport moves to a new era with the much-publicised ‘Car of the Future’.

But our review is all about what happened in 2011. Who were the hero drivers, who impressed us, and who disappointed? Read on for our driver-by-driver rankings, where each of the 28 full-time drivers’ seasons have been carefully dissected…

 

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1. Jamie Whincup

A thoroughly deserving champion, Whincup drove a near-flawless season to claim the championship ahead of the toughest opponent: his own team-mate.

Granted, he has a perfect support network that helps him along the way. The Triple 8 operation is clearly the benchmark squad in the championship, and he’s ably supported by a great group of managers and engineers. He has the perfect package at his disposal and used it to full effect.Jamie Whincup

It was nearly impossible to fault his performance all year. Sheer consistency and speed saw him stand on the podium in all but nine races this year, and he claimed more than double the number of poles than any other driver.

He was, without question, the standout performer of the 2011 season.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Team Vodafone (Triple 8 Engineering) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 10 Podiums: 19
Pole Positions: 11 Points: 3168 C’ship Position: 1st
OUR RATING: A+

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2. Craig Lowndes

His many years in the championship have done nothing to blunt his talent, and Lowndes came within a whisker of claiming his first championship crown in over a decade.

Unlike previous years, Lowndes started to hit his strides a little earlier in the season, netting six podium finishes by the halfway point of the year. But he still had a mountain to climb to catch runaway leader Whincup, who had notched up six wins and a further five podium finishes.

image His season finally came alive at Queensland Raceway, where he won all three races, and then backed that up to claim his third endurance win on the trot with Mark Skaife at Phillip Island. His runner-up result at Bathurst gave him an unlikely championship lead.

But when he really needed to deliver, he (and the car) failed: his points lead was wiped out after the Gold Coast, and the remaining races saw him charging hard. Missed it by that much…

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Team Vodafone (Triple 8 Engineering) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 5 Podiums: 14
Pole Positions: 5 Points: 3133 C’ship Position: 2nd
OUR RATING: A

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3. Garth Tander

Garth Tander Garth Tander

There has been much discussion over the course of the season that the Holden Racing Team has been in something of a form slump, but it would seem that Tander chose to ignore the form guide.

The West Australian driver outperformed his reigning champion team-mate almost all season long, time and time again dragging results out of his underperforming car.

The battle between the Team Vodafone Holdens meant he was never a title contender this year. But his three wins (particularly his Bathurst 1000 crown, where he withstood huge pressure in the closing laps from Lowndes) and eight other podiums showed that there is still plenty of fight in him yet…

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: TOLL HRT (Walkinshaw Performance) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 3 Podiums: 8
Pole Positions: 3 Points: 2574 C’ship Position: 5th
OUR RATING: A-

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4. Mark Winterbottom

In what has often been a challenging year for the marque, Winterbottom emerged as Ford’s leading driver in this very Holden-dominated season.

In saying that, his 2011 year produced some enormous challenges. His Falcon was wildly inconsistent in its handling, and he struggled more than any other driver with managing the softer-compound Dunlop tyres.

Mark Winterbottom On the flipside, he was might when he had his car hooked up, especially in the latter part of the season where he claimed two fine wins and a further three podiums in the last eight races of the year.

He’s undoubtedly worthy of a championship title, but he needs to be on the money weekend in, weekend out, if that’s to happen.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Orrcon Steel FPR (Ford Performance Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 2 Podiums: 9
Pole Positions: 5 Points: 2710 C’ship Position: 3rd
OUR RATING: B+

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5. Shane van Gisbergen

After a very promising 2010 season, the New Zealander stepped up once again and finally claimed that breakthrough maiden win, which was made all the better by it being on home soil.

Shane van Gisbergen He backed this up with another trip to the top step of the podium at Darwin, and a raft of top-ten finishes meant that he consistently racked up the points to finish fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.

But he still has room to grow, and one area that let him down was his qualifying – where he averaged tenth place on the grid over the season – which gave him far too much work to do in the races to recover lost ground.

Having cemented his position as Stone Brothers’ number-one driver, he’ll need to make sure he keeps that mantle next year, when he’s partnered by Tim Slade and new arrival, Lee Holdsworth.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: SP Tools Racing (Stone Brothers Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 2 Podiums: 5
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 2672 C’ship Position: 4th
OUR RATING: B

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6. Rick Kelly

Rick Kelly Rick Kelly

Despite having a year that’s featured more ups and downs than he’d care to remember, Kelly still achieved an impressive sixth overall in the Drivers’ Championship this year.

When the stars aligned – particularly if there was a bit of wet weather about – then young Rick was capable of beating anyone: two of his wins (Hamilton and Sandown) came on soaked tracks.

But there were equally moments when he was off the boil, and he had poor weekends at Abu Dhabi, Barbagallo and Queensland Raceway.

He’s done well in juggling the responsibilities of being a team owner and driver this year, but he’ll need to get more consistency in his game if he wants to claim another championship title.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Jack Daniel’s Racing (Kelly Racing) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 3 Podiums: 4
Pole Positions: 2 Points: 2358 C’ship Position: 6th
OUR RATING: B

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7. Will Davison

Having had a nightmare year in 2010 with the HRT squad, Davison found refuge at Ford Performance Racing, delivering a solid first year with the factory outfit.

Will Davison It took him a little while to settle into the team, and it wasn’t until Barbagallo that he finally made the podium for the first time. His mid-season was a bit hit-and-miss as FPR was found wanting on the softer tyres, but he started to his his stride in the latter part of the season.

From Phillip Island onwards, he was right on team-mate Winterbottom’s pace, which will see the pair stage a fascinating inter-team battle in 2012…

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Trading Post FPR (Ford Performance Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 6
Pole Positions: 4 Points: 2345 C’ship Position: 7th
OUR RATING: B 

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8. Lee Holdsworth

Holdsworth’s year was perhaps overshadowed by the (eventually proven) rumours that he was jumping switch to Stone Brothers Racing in 2012, after years of faithful service with Garry Rogers Motorsport.

Lee Holdsworth His year was one of consistency, with plenty of top-ten finishes, highlighted by podium finishes at Hamilton, Winton and Surfers Paradise. His street circuit form was again among the best in the business.

The GRM package has often not been on-par with the other factory Holden outfits, and Holdsworth’s decision to move on to SBR could be rather timely given that outfit’s improving form.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Fujitsu Racing (Garry Rogers Motorsport) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 3
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1920 C’ship Position: 8th
OUR RATING: B

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9. Jason Bright

This year proved, if anything, that Jason Bright is still capable of notching up another V8 Supercars title.

But his year also served as an example of how a few slips can really upset the momentum one can build off the back of some good results.

Jason BrightHis wins at Barbagallo and Winton were top-shelf – both being examples of how well he performed when the car was properly sorted – but he also hit problems with five retirements, some inconsistent qualifying performances and a late-season rob injury that ruled him out for three races.

He certainly didn’t finish the season in the same manner as he started, and he’ll need to regroup and get into that winning habit more frequently next year.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Team BOC (Brad Jones Racing) Holden Commodore
Races: 25 Wins: 2 Podiums: 4
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1633 C’ship Position: 16th
OUR RATING: B 

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10. Tim Slade

The youngster delivered an impressive season all round, continuing the upward trajectory in performance that he’d shown in 2010.

Tim Slade When his car was really hooked up – as was the case at Queensland Raceway – he was just sensational, with all three of his podiums coming at that weekend.

But his car was too inconsistent over the rest of the season, which led to rather too many poorer qualifying performances and finishes outside the top-ten.

There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but the signs are definitely positive.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Lucky 7 Racing (Stone Brothers Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 3
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1904 C’ship Position: 9th
OUR RATING: B

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11. Greg Murphy

At the end of last year, there were plenty of believed that Murphy was well past it and should have hung up the keys.

But he plugged away and grabbed the berth at Kelly Racing left vacant by Jason Bargwanna, and he seemed to slot right into an environment where he was clearly supported and well regarded.

Greg Murphy His year was an example of how important confidence is to a driver, and it was quite a rollercoaster year for him, performance-wise. He steadily improved as the year wore on, and he once again proved his endurance racing skills with excellent performances at Phillip Island and his old stomping ground of Bathurst, where he claimed his only pole and podium.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Pepsi Max Crew (Kelly Racing) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 1
Pole Positions: 1 Points: 1750 C’ship Position: 13th
OUR RATING: B

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12. David Reynolds

David Reynolds image

Having rejoined the championship after a year away, few expected that Reynolds would perform as well as he did.

Piloting the oldest car on the grid, the youngster frequently outperformed his more established Kelly Racing stablemates, and he proved particularly rapid in qualifying.

He often couldn’t sustain the same pace in the races, and his highlights were a handful of top-ten finishes.

But his stocks are on the rise, and he remains a frontrunner to join Ford Performance Racing, taking over the Rod Nash entry vacated by the retiring Paul Dumbrell.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Stratco Racing (Kelly Racing) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1519 C’ship Position: 19th
OUR RATING: B 

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13. Steve Owen

The Paul Morris Motorsport environment isn’t always the easiest to slot into, but the then-reigning Fujitsu Development Series champion performed largely as expected, and occasionally delivered a few surprise results.

Steve Owen The equipment at the team’s disposal isn’t always the best, but he’s performed well enough to warrant another season in the sport (although who he’ll be driving for is another matter) and generally had the edge over team-mate Russell Ingall.

His top-ten qualifying effort at Bathurst was an outstanding achievement, and there’s certainly hope that he’ll continue to improve his form next year.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: VIP Petfoods Racing (Paul Morris Motorsport) Holden Commodore
Races: 26 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1561 C’ship Position: 17th
OUR RATING: B- 

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14. Steven Johnson

‘Junior’ Johnson had a season of two distinct halves. With a rookie team-mate alongside him in the sister car, his position as the number-one driver wasn’t going to be threatened, and he drove better than he possibly ever has in the first half of the season.

Steven Johnson His qualifying performances, in particular, were excellent, and by the mid-season, he was comfortably in the top-ten of the Drivers’ Championship standings.

But as team-mate Moffat began to hit his strides, Johnson went off the rails, and his form faded dramatically. He was absolutely nowhere by the endurance races and only managed one finish inside the top-20 on two occasions after Phillip Island.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Jim Beam Racing (Dick Johnson Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 2
Pole Positions: 1 Points: 1708 C’ship Position: 14th
OUR RATING: B- 

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15. Fabian Coulthard

Fabian Coulthard

The New Zealander has enjoyed a better time of it in his second time out with the Walkinshaw squad, but he’s off to pastures new at Brad Jones Racing, where he’ll be put up against Jason Bright.

His 2011 season has featured some solid performances and some hard-charging drives through the field that have netted him a few top-ten finishes.

But his Achilles heel has been qualifying (where he’s averaged 16th on the grid), and it’s often left him with too much ground to try and make up in the races.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Bundaberg Racing (Walkinshaw Performance) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1839 C’ship Position: 12th
OUR RATING: C+

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16. Alex Davison

Alex Davison Alex Davison

Despite having his best season by a long shot in his V8 Supercars career, Davison fell short of the heights that the Stone Brothers Racing team had perhaps been hoping for, particularly when he is compared against the performance of his stablemates van Gisbergen and Slade.

His year started off brilliantly with a podium at Abu Dhabi, but he was unable to replicate that result again and his performances were wildly inconsistent. One some weekends, he’d comfortably have pace to run inside the top-ten, and then at the next round, he’d be struggling to qualify off the back row of the grid.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: IRWIN Racing (Stone Brothers Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 1
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1850 C’ship Position: 11th
OUR RATING: C+

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17. Michael Caruso

That Caruso is talented is not in dispute. He’s shown flashes of form in 2011, and his street circuit form has again been impressive.Michael Caruso

But when compared with team-mate Holdsworth, he’s been well and truly thumped this year. He can’t afford another year like that in 2012 with Holdsworth now off to pastures new, and he’ll need to demonstrate to the Garry Rogers team that he’s proper leadership material against his yet-to-be-named team-mate.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Fujitsu Racing (Garry Rogers Motorsport) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1729 C’ship Position: 14th
OUR RATING: C+ 

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18. James Courtney

James Courtney James Courtney

After winning the championship last year and jumping ship to one of Holden’s two leading teams for 2011 (and being paid handsomely to do so), there were big expectations on James Courtney.

It started well with a win in Abu Dhabi’s second race, but then the wheels fell off, literally and metaphorically. His qualifying form fell to pieces, and his poor starting position often meant that he was carrying a damaged car following an inevitable first-lap fracas.

His form started to show some considerable improvement towards the end of the season, but he now holds the undistinguished mantle of having the worst season as defending champion in the series’ long history. Much more was expected than what he delivered.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: TOLL HRT (Walkinshaw Performance) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 1 Podiums: 2
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1869 C’ship Position: 10th
OUR RATING: C 

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19. James Moffat

The year’s only rookie driver, Moffat took a while to adapt to the V8 racing main game, and it wasn’t until the mid-season that he started to show some decent pace.

James Moffat He turned the corner with a great drive to fourth in the final race at Queensland Raceway, and he started to venture into the top-ten on more occasions.

But there were still flashes of rookie overexuberance from time to time, and he didn’t earn himself many brownie points with some clumsy passing attempts on his rivals that speared them into the gravel.

With a little more polishing and focus, he could enjoy a long career just like his father, Alan.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Jim Beam Racing (Dick Johnson Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1306 C’ship Position: 23rd
OUR RATING: C 

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20. Paul Dumbrell

It’s often tempting to join the ranks and criticise Dumbrell for being little more than a rich boy racer, but there have been times this year when he’s shown some quite tremendous pace.

Paul Dumbrell Unfortunately, that’s also been blighted with some hotheadedness, and he’s cost himself more finishes in the top-ten than he landed up achieving. His ugly public spat with Shane van Gisbergen made him look like a serial moaner.

A lowly 24th in the standings was far below what he was actually capable of on his day, and he’s now headed to retirement to concentrate on his business interests as director of the Autobarn retail group.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: The Bottle-O Racing Team (Rod Nash / Ford Performance Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 27 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 2 Points: 1242 C’ship Position: 24th
OUR RATING: C-

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21. Jonathon Webb

After hitting the giddy heights of his shock win at Homebush last year, Webb fell down to earth with a bump this year.

Jonathon Webb Certainly, he was helped by being part of an established team last year, while 2011 saw him go it alone with his own team. Perhaps he’d bitten off more than he could chew and paid the price?

He’s looking to expand to a two-car operation next year, so this will either improve matters, or it will overburden him with the extra responsibility. Time will tell.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Mother Energy Racing Team (Tekno Autosports) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1493 C’ship Position: 21st
OUR RATING: C- 

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22. Dean Fiore

Dean Fiore Dean Fiore

As a driver, Fiore has the potential to achieve better than what his results may suggest on paper, but this largely stems from the fact that he’s running an underfunded, single-car operation that will always struggle to compete against the works squads.

It’s difficult to gauge his performance in this situation, but his alignment with Dick Johnson Racing is a great platform to propel him to better results in 2012. It will be interesting to see how he improves in a better-resourced operation like DJR.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Westrac Racing (Triple F Racing) Ford Falcon
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 992 C’ship Position: 27th
OUR RATING: C- 

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23. Tony D’Alberto

Tony D'Alberto Tony D'Alberto

A decision to switch from Holden to Ford early in the season meant that D’Alberto was forever playing catch-up, having neither the budget nor resources to accelerate development of his new car and get some proper set-ups sorted.

It was therefore little surprise that he was largely mired down the order, his couple of trips into the top-ten notwithstanding. With time in the off-season to get more test mileage under his belt, he’ll hopefully be able to move up the grid, but the loss of title sponsor Wilson Security (he claims by mutual consent) won’t help in the short-term…

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Wilson Security Racing (Tony D’Alberto) Holden Commodore / Ford Falcon
Races: 26 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1045 C’ship Position: 26th
OUR RATING: C-

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24. Warren Luff

Warren Luff Warren Luff

Judging Warren Luff’s performances this year have been challenging in more ways than one. The one-car outfit clearly hasn’t had the resources to put together a truly competitive package, and Luff has only been able to gild the lily for so long.

He’s gone about it in a quiet and dignified way, but it was little surprise that he quit the team at the end of the year, having been unable to net a single top-ten finish all year. He deserves better, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see him on the grid full-time in 2012.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Gulf Western Oil Racing (Lucas Dumbrell Racing) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 809 C’ship Position: 28th
OUR RATING: C-

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25. Karl Reindler

Karl Reindler Karl Reindler

Aside from his fiery startline accident at Barbagallo (the one race weekend where he qualified reasonably well), Reindler’s 2011 season has been largely anonymous, particularly the latter half.

He’s made occasional forays into the top-ten, but much of the season has seen him mired in the lower places and seemingly unable to improve.

Perhaps a change of team will do him good? In any respect, he needs to lift his game in 2012.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing (Brad Jones Racing / Britek) Holden Commodore
Races: 27 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1144 C’ship Position: 25th
OUR RATING: D+

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26. Russell Ingall

There’s no doubting Ingall’s all-round popularity among fans, but being well-liked doesn’t put extra pace in your car.

He’s still a terrible qualifier, and he was mired in the midfield all season, only managing six top-ten finishes all year.Russell Ingall

Certainly his cred (and his ample backing from SuperCheap Auto) helped propel him into Fabian Coulthard’s vacated seat with the Walkinshaw Performance outfit next year, but he’s going to be up against the two works HRT drivers who are a lot younger and hungrier. And there’s the very talented Nick Percat waiting in the wings.

One thinks that 2012 will be – as 2011 should have been – his final year in the championship.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: SuperCheap Auto Racing (Paul Morris Motorsport) Holden Commodore
Races: 20 Wins: 0 Podiums: 0
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1514 C’ship Position: 20th
OUR RATING: D 

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27. Jason Bargwanna

In his long V8 Supercars career, Bargwanna has made his name for being a tough little racer who, on his day, was able to extract far more performance from a car than it perhaps deserved.

Jason Bargwanna Not so in 2011. Aside from a fluke podium at Barbagallo – which only came by dint of the BJR Holden being really hooked up there – his season was spent at the back of the pack.

He perhaps might be capable of delivering better results when the cards fall his way, but they haven’t done so for a while, and perhaps it’s time he realised that he should hang up the keys.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Jana Living Racing (Brad Jones Racing) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 1
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1352 C’ship Position: 16th
OUR RATING: D

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28. Todd Kelly

Given the more than ample resources at his disposal in his own four-car team, Todd Kelly’s performances this year have been well and truly below par, particularly when one compares his results to his stablemates.

Todd Kelly One suspects he’s juggling too many hats – as a driver, team owner and member of the V8 Commission – right now, and his driving is clearly suffering as a result.

His two podium finishes came when the rain belted down at Hamilton and Sandown, clearly showing he still has the skills to pedal a car at racing speeds. But aside from this, he was almost invisible.

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THE VITAL STATISTICS
Team: Jack Daniel’s Racing (Kelly Racing) Holden Commodore
Races: 28 Wins: 0 Podiums: 2
Pole Positions: 0 Points: 1550 C’ship Position: 18th
OUR RATING: D 

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[Images via Aussie V8; Bleacher Report; Chris von Wieldt; Fair Dinkum Sheds Racing; Flickr; FOX Sports; Holden Motorsport; HRT; Jana Living Racing; LAT; Stone Brothers Racing; The Age; VIP Petfoods; V8 Insiders; V8 Supercars; Wilson Security Racing; Zimbio]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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