How will the four new cars fare in the opening V8 Supercars Championship race?

Kicking off a new season with a host of new rules and two new manufacturers will see the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship bring with it a host of questions that need to be answered, and there’s no doubt that this weekend’s season opener, the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide, will go a long way to answering these questions.

It’s essentially the sawn of a new era in Australia’s touring car landscape. We have new regulations, two new manufacturers and plenty of new drivers on the grid as the curtain is finally raised on the 2013 season.

The change that the new ‘Car of the Future’ specifications brings has encouraged two manufacturers – Nissan and AMG – to finally break the ‘Ford vs Holden’ duopoly that has been the mainstay of the sport since the early 1990s.

All four carmakers will be fielding brand-new cars this weekend, and the series organisers will have their work cut out trying to ensure parity across the four brands in the early stages of the season, particularly concerning aerodynamics, engine horsepower and fuel consumption.

Reliability is also go to be a major factor under the new regulations. Previous seasons saw many races achieve 100% reliability – or accident-induced retirements only – but the new rulebook and cars will leave plenty of unknowns up and down the pit lane.

The Circuit

Adelaide street circuit
Date: 1-3 March 2013
Lap Length: 3.22km
Race Lap Record: 1:21.9502, James Courtney (Ford Falcon FG) – 2010
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Fri 09:05-09:35
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 11:15-11:45
Free Practice Session 3 Fri 12:30-13:00
Free Practice Session 4 Fri 13:45-14:15
Race 1 Qualifying Fri 15:05-15:25
Race 1 Top-10 Qualifying Shootout Fri 16:10-16:40
Race 1 Warm-Up Sat 08:45-09:05
Race 1 (78 laps, 250km) Sat 14:50-17:00
Race 2 Qualifying Sun 11:05-11:25
Race 2 (78 laps, 250km) Sun 14:35-16:45
Past Winners: Jamie Whincup (Holden Commodore VE) 2012 (Race 1)
Will Davison (Ford Falcon FG) 2012 (Race 2)

Albeit used in a shorter form, the Grand Prix venue is still considered to be one of the best street circuits in the world, and unusual given that it offers some challenging high-speed sections and plenty of overtaking opportunities.

A busy and technical circuit inside the cockpit, drivers are constantly on alert in their bid to deliver fast lap times and keep their cars out of the awfully-close barriers.

If wet weather rears its head during the weekend, conditions will become even trickier for drivers as the grip levels and visibility diminish, and could well be a carnage-filled weekend!

Facts, Stats & Predictions

The raft of rules changes heading into the 2013 season will make picking a winner for the season-opener a huge challenge. But here goes…

Despite the upheaval in the rules and regulations, Triple Eight Racing – now running under its new Red Bull Racing Australia guise – and Ford Performance Racing are likely to remain the teams to beat.

Between the two squads, they won all of the thirty races last year, and with continuity in their line-ups (both driver and technical), strong funding and a healthy lead-in time to bed in their new cars, it’s hard to look past them.

It’s particularly hard to overlook reigning champion Jamie Whincup, who has won half of the races he has contested around the streets of Adelaide since he joined the Triple Eight stable in 2006. His drive to victory at last year’s race on Saturday was simply superb.

Team-mate Craig Lowndes hasn’t won here since 2005. He will need to overcome his customary slow start to the season with a solid result here, so qualifying well and keeping out of trouble will be key to his hopes of success.

Having expanded from three to four cars during the off-season, Ford Performance Racing fields two-thirds of the Blue Oval’s thinning presence on the grid. Of concern will be the lack of pace that the outfit showed during the pre-season test a fortnight ago at Sydney Motorsport Park, so it will be interesting to see how quickly the team can get on the pace in Adelaide, a circuit vastly different to the high-speed Sydney circuit.

The other major traditional factory team, the Holden Racing Team, also showed less than brilliantly at Sydney. How James Courtney and Garth Tander – who has typically been a strong performer in Adelaide – adapt to the new car in the early practice sessions will be interesting to watch, but the team will be disappointed if its not a top-five contender.

Of the other traditional outfits, Brad Jones Racing will be hoping it can continue its momentum into Adelaide, after Jason Bright and Fabian Coulthard claimed a 1-2 on the timesheets in Sydney. The team had flashes of competitiveness in 2012, but will be hoping to return to the race-winning form they showed in 2011. Will Adelaide be that launchpad?

Don’t expect too much from the new manufacturers – Nissan and AMG – just yet. Both the Altima and E63 are low on mileage and seemingly down on power, so they will probably rely on reliability issues for others in order to land some solid results this weekend. It’s unlikely that they will feature prominently in qualifying or the races just yet, but we’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

Five drivers will make their debuts as full-time V8 Supercars Championship drivers, with former DTM racer Maro Engel headlining the quintet as the only one never to have raced V8 Supercar machinery. The German was a surprise signing to pilot Erebus Motorsport’s AMG E63, and while he brings a wealth of experience of racing in the European scene, don’t expect him to be on the pace of team-mates Tim Slade and Lee Holdsworth just yet.

Three of the other rookies – Scott McLaughlin (GRM Holden), Tim Blanchard (Dick Johnson Racing) and Scott Pye (Lucas Dumbrell Holden) – are all V8 Development Series graduates, while Jonny Reid (Dick Johnson Racing) has had occasional top-flight outings over the years.

With two new drivers and a hugely disrupted lead-in to the 2013 season, the Dick Johnson Racing pair of Reid and Blanchard are likely to struggle this weekend. They were still building Blanchard’s car during the pre-season test, and Reid’s signing was only confirmed a few days ago. If either car can get off the back row of the grid, it will be a miracle, and just making it to the finish will be an achievement in itself.

Make sure you keep visiting the website for all the latest news, results and analysis from Adelaide this weekend!

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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.