Five things that WILL happen in the 2016 V8 Supercar season
Predicting the future without consequence, in today's Thursday Five
The supposed rise of GT racing in Australasia, coupled with a series of unpopular decisions from category management, and next year’s proposed Gen 2 changes to the series seemingly falling flat, has seen negativity surrounding the V8 Supercar series reach unparalleled heights.
But I tend to not buy into it. Yeah, the odd complaint is warranted, but most of it is just the requisite banal concoction of hot gas–fueled entitlement that the internet and social media have helped foster — trolls and the uninformed rubbing shoulders, holding hands, and singing Kumbaya together in front of a roaring bonfire.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that I actually expect this season to deliver a number of interesting and curious things. I’m willing to put my word on the line and say that a number of interesting things WILL happen in 2016 — and what better way to do that than in Driven’s lovely, cuddly, pay-by-the-hour, Thursday Five.
DJR Team Penske will win races
Photo / DJR Team Penske
No team in the V8 paddock has waded through more muck over the years than Dick Johnson Racing. But time and again they come back from the adversity stronger than ever, and I feel we’re about to get a taste of this in 2016.
After losing losing their championship-winning driver James Courtney at the end of 2010, then losing their high-profile backers Jim Beam at the end of 2012, DJR looked to once again be on the rocks. Things turned even more Hindenburg at the end of 2013, when the team’s new lead driver Chaz Mostert left to join Ford Performance Racing.
But 12 months later, the team was bailed out by American motorsport legend Roger Penske, and things have been on the up. Young Scott Pye was able to claim a maiden podium at Pukekohe Raceway late last year, capping off a consistent end to the season after being brought in to replace Marcos Ambrose.
With Pye now joined by certified race winner Fabian Coulthard, and Chaz Mostert’s 2015 engineer Adam de Borre also joining in the fun, momentum is on their side. They’ll at least get a win each, bet the kids on it.
Holden Racing Team's make-or-break season will be a 'make'
Photo / Holden Racing Team
It seems like every year, when V8 season rolls around and we climb out from under these rocks and remove the duvets from obscuring our view of regular life, the Holden Racing Team (HRT) always issue some kind of story or press release about how they're going to reinvent themselves, or how they're going to change their mindset for this season. Releases potentially written by the same person who tirelessly told us every January that Mark Winterbottom was 'gunning for a championship'.
It's been a long 13 years since HRT have won their last championship. Could the weight of fielding four cars have hankered their ability to give their two star drivers the best shot at wins? Possibly, we'll find that out this year.
I expect the trimming of the third and fourth cars from the roster will see both drivers, Garth Tander and James Courtney, return to the winners circle more frequently. Both displayed great race pace in 2015 — Courtney taking two wins, and Tander making the podium at Bathurst after a gutsy drive. Like DJR Team Penske, they'll both be winners in 2016, though they'll struggle to match Prodrive and Red Bull for consistency.
The championship will be decided between Red Bull’s stars
Photo / Chris Hyde, Getty Images
While this wouldn’t seem to be that weird an opinion to have, consider that neither driver finished on the overall podium last season.
Part of this belief revolves around the idea that the lads at Prodrive won’t be such a strong force in 2016, and I don’t think it’s an idea entirely without merit. They’re minus exactly one Adam de Borre, and they’ve gained a new rookie in Cameron Waters — in some respects an unproven force in the lavish world of V8 Supercars.
Whincup and van Gisbergen (and to a lesser extent Craig Lowndes) have got each other to try and measure themselves against, and after convincingly (arguably) losing the title to those Pepsi boys, the pressure will be on to perform — both internally and externally. No team in the paddock is more determined.
Apart from HRT perhaps.
Kuala Lumper is going to make for some damn epic TV
Photo / V8 Supercars
It’s kind of become the forgotten element of the 2016 championship, but yeah, in case you’ve forgotten, the V8 Supercars will travel to the open-world sauna known as Malaysia in August. And it’s going to be so, so good.
When the KL City Grand Prix announcement was made, most grimaced, but I punched the air. The circuit has shades of Macau and Homebush about it — both sublime street circuits. Dump 26 big heavy V8 Supercars, kitted out with drivers being forced to adapt to an unforgiving, melting, concrete canyon, and enjoy the result.
It’s actually going to be a good year of racing
Photo / Matthew Hansen
This might be the most contentious call of all. Of course, it’s a sin to try and build up or be positive anything these days — to do so is to force the public to assume that you’re working on someone’s payroll.
I’m not, of course, but I’m quite genuinely excited by this coming season.
Will Davison and Lee Holdsworth back in a competitive cars, Triple Eight expanding by one, a second handy steerer in James Moffat joining Volvo, HRT downscaling to two cars, Penske’s improved odds… It’s enough to get a V8-parched fan frothing from every orifice.
I will be living on the couch in front of the TV this weekend. Disturb me at your absolute peril.