I remain bemused at just why V8 Supercar Australia takes the entire circus half way around the globe to race on a circuit, in a place, where no-one comes to watch.
I watched all three heats of the round, broadcast at an obscene hour of night, Friday and Saturday, because of the 7 hour time zone difference, and not once did I see any spectators in the copious stands and viewing areas. Friday is kiss-the-earth day for Muslims, so I could understand no-one being at the track on the Friday, but Saturday’s telecast was precisely the same. Completely vacant of spectators. Why go all that way to race for the shadows and flies?
Not that anyone really missed anything. FPR’s Mark Winterbottom streeted the field in race’s one & two. The Orrcon falcon was quite simply a rocketship. It handled well, put the power down well and preserved tyres. Any further down the field and the race became chaotic. Paul "Cap’n Crash" Morris was at the fore yet again, featuring on lap one of race one to take out both the Lowndes 888 Car, as well as cause damage to the Whincup 88 car. Neither Team Vodafone car survived the race or scored points.
In race two, Morris featured again, creating incidents with HRT, Toll/HSV, and the Team Vodafone 88 car. The part which amazes me is that the guy totally avoids any penance being handed down by the driving standards officer. He’s clearly a loose cannon and not up to the standards of the rest of the field, yet he seems to be some kind of protected animal. Thankfully, in race two at least Lowndes managed to come home in fifth to recover some championship points. Whincup, thanks to Morris, finished out of the points, but at least he finished and the rear end damage wasn’t too bad. The levelling factor being a coming together between both Toll/HSV cars, taking them both from serious championship contenders perhaps sealing their series chances at this round, to finishing 14th for Tander and 12th for Kelly. The championship, thankfully, remains open.
The track surface at Bahrain is apparently very coarse. Even studious attention to sand & dust removal overnight by officials fails to make it any sweeter, as sand removal also removes rubber buildup and grip. Race three started off a little more circumspectly than the preceding two, which was a relief if like me you’re backing a close finish right down to the last round. Winterbottom didn’t get the ’blast-off’ start he’d had in the first two heats and had to fight back against the Stone Brothers’ Jeldwen car of James Courtney who had a blinder of a start. Lowndes also had a good start and the compulsory pitstops seemed to fall Lowndes’ way also, coming out ahead of Courtney after the stops.
Cap’n Crash showed his ineptitude again in heat three, tangling with Todd Kelly in the #22 HRT Commodore, coming off second best and then proceeding to punt Kelly in the rear as he shot back onto the track after losing his first joust. HRT were livid, as was Kelly and rightly so. Paul Morris may only be racing to defray his old man’s taxation liabilities, but he’s far from entertainment value when he persists in tangling with level one teams and premium drivers. Thankfully this time around he received a drive-through for his efforts.
Once all the CPS had taken place, the order settled down, and being the third and last heat, little was likely to change over the final 10 laps. Winterbottom came home in third and took out the round, as he rightly deserved. Team Vodafone and Car 888 with Craig Lowndes at the helm came home in first place. Some compensation for what promised to be a trying weekend right from the start of practice. Points scored were not what the four front running teams would have expected, but then, no race round is ever what it’s expected to be these days. James Courtney’s second place in the third heat was the best of the round and some improvement for him. He’s a long way to go before I’ll share any plaudits with him, but he does show promise. Not a patch on Marcos Ambrose, but he’s only young.
The high point of the weekend for me was the overall third place for Steven Johnson and the Jim Beam Racing/DJR outfit. That team is struggling under a massive debt load as a result of the Westpoint property development collapse, with their 2005 sponsor, Westpoint, going into administration and reneging on sponsorship pledges. Steven is finally showing just what he’s made of and some of his old man’s tenacity, but somehow I don’t think he’ll ever be the champion his Dad was, and is. All in all, a reasonable result, but not the one I was hoping for. Still, it’s on now to Symons Plains, Tasmania in a fortnight’s time for Round 13. The penultimate round for 2007. Championship points as follows: