Four things you missed from the Clipsal 500
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Rookies on show, champions struggling, endless drama, and the Clipsal 500
In commenting directly on the insane, bizarre final race of the Clipsal 500, I feel like every option is a 50-cal shot directed at either of my two feet.
People are angry. People are always damn angry though. They’re complaining about this and that, how so-and-so should’ve got a penalty, about how whatshisname upstairs in race control should be lynched. “They should’ve stopped the race!” “They should’ve gone the full distance!”
I think I’ll skirt right around these questions, for now at least. Over the next few days, weeks, maybe even months, you’ll see articles about the political clusterbuck that was race three at Clipsal. You’ll agree with some of it, and probably disagree with most of it. But that’s life in 2016 I guess.
With all of the action of that final race, there were a number of curious and interesting narratives that played out that may have been overlooked. All of which point to this season being a bit of a corker...
That Cameron Waters dude is actually pretty quick
Photo / Prodrive Racing
Saturday wasn’t the best day for Prodrive Racing. Both of their marquee drivers Chaz Mostert and Mark Winterbottom faded in the races, prompting the requisite questions about whether the team was under a cloud.
While his race one and two results show a 15th and a 12th–place finish (having qualified in 15th and 12th), what they don’t show is that he fought for both positions. Race two in particular saw Waters slip down the order during the pit cycle. But, in a manner that some of the full-timers could pay attention to, the rookie cleanly carved through the order to take back 12th — two former series champions among those he passed without fuss.
His fourth-place finish in the final race was a bit of a Bradbury, but he’ll soon be earning top five finishes on merit.
Nissan Motorsport might’ve turned a corner
Photo / Nissan Motorsport
I dunno. Every time Nissan have a solid weekend, someone writes about them as if they’re going to be championship threats — only for the four-car squad to bomb at the following two rounds.
But the Altimas looked great all weekend. After doing his usual thing of topping final practice, Michael Caruso went on to have a clean and uneventful weekend. As a result he now leads the championship.
The Kelly brothers too both looked good — potentially better than Caruso did. A sixth and seventh for elder-brother Todd will hopefully be a sign for things to come as his future as a full-time driver continues to come under the media microscope.
HRT can challenge for the championship… with Courtney
Photo / Holden Motorsport
James Courtney’s incredible win in race two cannot be underestimated. You will have heard Mark Skaife and Neil Crompton’s screams of awe through your television set, and you will have seen Courtney’s flushed and exhausted face emerge from his helmet post-race. Both elements were genuine — here was the same Courtney that beat Whincup to the championship in 2010. If he can win again in the next few events, he will be a threat for the championship.
His teammate Garth Tander meanwhile continues to lack consistency. Over the three weekends, he qualified 18th (race one), ninth (race two), and 13th (race three). By comparison Courtney qualified fifth, fourth, and ninth.
... but, there is no clear favourite to win the championship
Photo / V8 Supercars
Jamie Whincup showed in race one that he’s still capable of delivering one of his good old-fashioned smackdowns, before showing in race two and three that he’s a beatable force.
Shane van Gisbergen was speedy all weekend, but made several mistakes in the wet race three — a sentiment that could be echoed about Chaz Mostert and James Courtney.
Mark Winterbottom and his Bottle-O Falcon seemed behind the 8-ball all weekend. Solid, but a far cry from the seemingly unbeatable crew we witnessed through the middle of last season.
Scott McLaughlin looked to have a new lease on life, but James Moffat’s gremlins in the sister Volvo S60 show that the team still has some mechanical bumps to iron out.
In short, it’s still absolutely anybody’s game.