As I put fingers to keyboard, we’ve seen races one and two of this weekend’s three race round.
I’m not all that interested in the CHAMP cars, simply because of the series exclusivity and lack of coverage here in Australia. Surfers Paradise is apparently the driver’s highlight round for the CHAMP series. More than likely because it’s the arse-end of the series and championship is either close to being decided, or already so and the majority of teams and drivers need not take the points scoring so seriously. It’s nice to see young Will Power in Craig Gore’s car doing so well, but for mine, that’s about as excited as I’ll get about the open wheelers.
As always, my concentration is on the equally exclusive V8 Supercar Championship. Coming into this weekend’s round, the lead sits with Jamie Whincup (Team Vodafone) on 461 points, with team mate Craig Lowndes on 445 points in second place, then Rick Kelly (Toll/HSV) on 443 points and his team mate Garth Tander on 434 points. These four drivers are the only ones likely to be able to win this years championship. The fifth placed Todd Kelly (HRT) is too far in arrears on 324 points. With four rounds remaining, including this weekend, there is no room for errors.
Surfers Paradise always throws a spanner into even the best laid plans, and thus far this weekend, it hasn’t failed to do just that. No serious wall-meet-car bingles, although there have been some incidents. Sadly, Jason Bright’s team, Britek, has suffered again so soon after having to rebuild both cars in the aftermath of Bathurst.. The Fujitsu sponsored falcon was damaged sufficiently in race one to require a trip to Brisbane overnight to have the chassis straightened on a jig before being trucked back to Melbourne. More repairs will be necessary before the car is packed into it’s Gibson Freight cargo frame for the trip to Bahrain in a weeks time. The Irwin Tools car, Britek’s second vehicle, also suffered damage in Race two and probably won’t front for race three. Between Bathurst and this round, Britek have had to spend almost $200,000 in rebuilds.
Jamie Whincup has been absolutely blistering, despite not winning a race in this round. The Vodafone Falcon has been quick, tight and well handled by Whincup, but not quite well enough to jump all over Garth Tander in Car 16. Tander has a magic race car and seems unbeatable this weekend, providing he can keep it all together for race three. He’s pulled off two firsts so far, with Whincup immediately behind in both. Lowndes came home third in race one, but suffered the continuing inconsistencies of race stewards after falling foul of the Surfers Paradise circuit, resulting in some rear panel damage in race two. Craig doesn’t seem to be right on to it this weekend, or maybe he’s simply being over-shadowed by his more spectacular team mate.
What the rest of the field sees of Car 16
Tander’s team mate and defending champion, Rick Kelly isn’t having a happy weekend. He might come away with some points, but finishing 7th in race one and 16th in race two doesn’t bode well for the weekend as a whole. Similarly with Lowndes, for although he came home third in race one, due to a couple of miscues in race two, which resulted in loose rear bodywork and stewards determining he had to come in for repair, 24th place in race two isn’t much help. Personally, I’m in agreement with Neil Crompton when he declared his dissatisfaction with the stewards decision. The Lowndes car had loose bodywork, that much is certain, however it wasn’t flapping around in the slipstream and was definitely in no danger of breaking away to create a danger to other racecars. Again, poor consistency from race control.
One bright point for the weekend is the amazingly changed fortunes for Greg Murphy (Tasman Motorsport) in car 51. Fifth in race one and 4th in race two, Murphy seems to have the car he’s wanted all season. After bringing car 51 home in 4th spot at Bathurst, Murphy is suddenly smiling from ear-to-ear, and looks the goods on the box as well.
Race three to come following the CHAMP car race. In the meantime, here’s a snap from the coverage depicting something we’re not likely to see for too much longer, now that the RAAF has pilots in training in the US on the new F/A18 F Super Hornet.