Motorsport: Eyes on Kiwi at Adelaide
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V8 Supercar series begins after off-season shake-up
Driver and sponsor swaps during the V8 Supercars off-season set the scene for an interesting season with a wide selection of cars capable of snagging podiums and victories.
Many followers believe Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen will be a strong challenger for the overall title after moving to a Holden for Red Bull Racing Australia, joining six-time champion Jamie Whincup. Van Gisbergen has finished in the top six every season since 2010, peaking with second place in 2014 with the single-car Tekno Autosports outfit.
Triple Eight has shifted touring car legend Craig Lowndes into a third car for the Red Bull team, under its Vortex squad.
Whincup enters the season as a favourite, alongside reigning champion for Prodrive Racing and rival Mark Winterbottom.
Winterbottom heads a new-look Prodrive outfit — the team’s three cars sporting new primary backers. Bottle-O has shifted its support to Winterbottom’s #1 entry, while Chaz Mostert, having recovered from his 2015 Bathurst 1000 smash, gains SuperCheap Auto support.
The third Prodrive entry will be driven by last year’s Dunlop Development Series champion Cameron Waters, backed by Monster Energy. The 21-year-old debuted as a team co-driver last year, taking over the second car while Mostert recovered.
Also campaigning a Prodrive Racing Ford Falcon FG-X are Super Black Racing. Chris Pither joins the squad after finishing fifth in last year’s Development Series. It’s only Super Black Racing’s second season, with Pither joining Waters as two of three rookies in the series.
Pither’s appointment looked to leave former Super Black driver and fellow Kiwi Andre Heimgartner high and dry, but the former Carrera Cup pilot salvaged a spot at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport alongside 2011 Bathurst 1000 champion Nick Percat.
The pair have unveiled their new SP Tools Holden Commodores, though it’s understood support from the tool brand will last only a handful of events.
While Heimgartner swapped a Ford for a Holden, another Kiwi, Fabian Coulthard, did the opposite. He joins DJR Team Penske alongside 26-year-old Scott Pye.
Scott McLaughlin completes the five-strong line-up of Kiwi drivers, returning to Volvo Dealer Racing. After strong seasons in 2013 and 2014, winning six races, McLaughlin’s 2015 was riddled with reliability issues.
The 22-year-old lines up alongside his fourth new teammate in four years, second-generation racer James Moffat. Shifting from Nissan Motorsport, Moffat and McLaughlin are friends off the track.
Moffat’s slot at Nissan Motorsport is filled by former BNT NZ SuperTourers regular Dale Wood. The remaining three cars at Nissan Motorsport retain drivers Michael Caruso and team owners Rick Kelly and Todd Kelly.
Wood and Coulthard’s departure from Brad Jones Racing sees former Walkinshaw Performance driver Tim Slade and former Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport driver Tim Blanchard join stalwart Jason Bright. Slade set the quickest time at the official V8 Supercars Winton test day.
As Nissan perseveres with their Altima package, Erebus Motorsport have wiped the slate clean — replacing their underperforming Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 platform for two Walkinshaw Performance Holden Commodores. They also have two new drivers in Prodrive refugee David Reynolds and newcomer Aaren Russell.
Russell and brother Drew impressed with their low-key performance at last year’s Bathurst 1000, while Reynolds’ Prodrive fallout was one of the more interesting tales of 2015.
Tekno Autosports, with new signing Will Davison, will not be the only single-car operation on the grid; REC owner Charlie Schwerkolt will debut his new Preston Hire Racing Holden entry, with Lee Holdsworth driving.
Completing the field are the Holden Racing Team, focusing on a two-car assault for former champions Garth Tander and James Courtney. .
The season’s opening race starts at 4pm today at Adelaide’s Clipsal 500, with another two races to follow over the weekend.