It’s another new dawn for the V8 Supercars Championship, which sees its 2014 championship season kick off this weekend with the Clipsal 500 on the streets of Adelaide.
The series’ inaugural year under the new ‘Car of the Future’ regulations proved to be a resounding success, with the championship enjoying the greatest variety of different drivers and teams celebrating race victories over what was an often-bruising season.
But the same driver and team – Jamie Whincup and Triple 8 Engineering – ultimately emerged victorious to see the (now) 31-year-old claim his fifth Drivers’ Championship title in the past six years.
It boiled down to the simple fact that none of his rivals enjoyed the consistency he did, and with the regulations remaining largely stable – aside from some parity tweaks for the underperforming AMG and Nissan runners – it’s perhaps difficult to see how he couldn’t be toppled in his quest for a record sixth championship.
|2014 CLIPSAL 500 ADELAIDE
|Date:||28 February – 1 March 2014|
|Race Lap Record:||1:21.0507, Jamie Whincup (Holden VE Commodore) – 2012|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:15-10:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 11:55-12:25|
|Free Practice Session 3||Fri 13:40-14:10|
|Race 1 Qualifying||Fri 15:00-15:15|
|Race 2 Qualifying||Fri 15:25-15:40|
|Free Practice Session 4||Sat 12:50-13:20|
|Race 1 (39 laps, 125km)||Sat 16:20-17:20|
|Race 2 (39 laps, 125km)||Sat 18:50-19:50|
|Race 3 Qualifying||Sun 12:00-12:20|
|Race 3 Qualifying Top-10 Shootout||Sun 12:35-13:05|
|Race 3 (78 laps, 250km)||sun 15:15-17:15|
|Past Winners:||Craig Lowndes (Holden VE Commodore)||2013 (Race 1)|
|Shane van Gisbergen (Holden VE Commodore)||2013 (Race 2)|
* All session times are quoted in Australian Central Daylight Time (GMT +10:30 hrs)
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!
The grid gets a shake-up
A sponsorship squeeze during the off-season has seen the traditional 28-car field reduced to 25 runners, but joining the scrum is a fifth carmaker: Volvo.
All eyes were on the Swedish carmaker’s pair of S60 racers being run under the GRM/Polestar stable in the recent pre-season test. While both Scott McLaughlin and newcomer Robert Dahlgren were a touch over 1.5 seconds off the overall pace, the new car ran faultlessly despite having their assembly finalised just days before.
The Erebus Motorsport Mercedes AMG E63s will be the only other two-car presence among the manufacturers, with the Betty Klimenko-owned team scaling back to a two-car operation after a tough baptism last year. Lee Holdsworth is joined by former Ford factory driver Will Davison, who finished third in last year’s Drivers’ Championship standings.
Nissan will field the same four-car line-up and will be hoping that recent aerodynamic parity upgrades – coupled with some tweaks to its engine – will help make it a more competitive force in its second season since the Japanese marque returned to the Australian touring car scene.
Six drivers will race with Ford badging this year, with Dick Johnson Racing and Ford Performance Racing fielding two cars apiece. The former features an all-new line-up and solid sponsorship (a stark contrast to this time last year), while the latter sees ‘blue Oval’ stalwart Mark Winterbottom joined by young hotshot Chaz Mostert. David Reynolds and full-time returnee Jack Perkins will compete in two satellite entries run out of the FPR stable.
Despite the recent announcement that it would suspend its domestic carmaking in the coming years, Holden still tips the scales with eleven Commodores in the 25-car field.
Frontrunners of the likes of HRT duo Garth Tander and James Courtney or Tekno Autosport’s Shane van Gisbergen and Brad Jones Racing pairing Jason Bright and Fabian Coulthard all continue to race in the colours of ‘The General’.
2014 V8 Supercars Championship – Full-Time Driver Line-up:
|Driver||Team / Entry|
|1.||Jamie Whincup||Triple Eight Race Engineering / Holden|
|2.||Garth Tander||Holden Racing Team / Holden|
|4.||Lee Holdsworth||Erebus Motorsport / Mercedes E63 AMG|
|5.||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Performance Racing / Ford|
|6.||Chaz Mostert||Ford Performance Racing / Ford|
|7.||Todd Kelly||NISMO / Nissan|
|8.||Jason Bright||Brad Jones Racing / Holden|
|9.||Will Davison||Erebus Motorsport / Mercedes E63 AMG|
|14.||Fabian Coulthard||Brad Jones Racing / Holden|
|15.||Rick Kelly||NISMO / Nissan|
|16.||Scott Pye||Dick Johnson Racing / Ford|
|17.||David Wall||Dick Johnson Racing / Ford|
|18.||Jack Perkins||Charlie Schwerkolt Racing / Ford|
|21.||Dale Wood||Britek Motorsport / Holden|
|22.||James Courtney||Holden Racing Team / Holden|
|23.||Russell Ingall||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport / Holden|
|33.||Scott McLaughlin||Volvo Polestar Racing / Volvo|
|34.||Robert Dahlgren||Volvo Polestar Racing / Volvo|
|36.||Michael Caruso||NISMO / Nissan|
|47.||Tim Slade||Walkinshaw Racing / Holden|
|55.||David Reynolds||Rod Nash Racing / Ford|
|97.||Shane van Gisbergen||Tekno Autosports / Holden|
|222.||Nick Percat||James Rosenberg Racing / Holden|
|360.||James Moffat||NISMO / Nissan|
|888.||Craig Lowndes||Triple Eight Race Engineering / Holden|
Facts, Stats & Predictions
Last year’s season-opener delivered surprisingly good reliability coupled with two excellent races won by Holden.
Shane van Gisbergen – who had been at the centre of attention over an acrimonious departure and reversal of his decision to quit – put his Tekno Holden on pole for both races (winning the second), while Craig Lowndes kicked off his 2013 campaign with victory in the Saturday race.
This year’s event will produced some added spice, with organisers opting for a twilight style schedule for Saturday’s on-track action, but taking the largely unpopular decision to split the typically car-breaking 250-kilometre opener into two 125km legs.
Sunday’s race will now serve as the feature over its full 78-lap, 250-kilometre length.
Make sure you keep visiting the RichardsF1.com website for all the latest news, results and analysis from Adelaide this weekend!
Image via V8 Supercars Championship