Evaluating The 2016 V8 Supercars Season So Far

Unpredictability, variety, and intense racing have made the 2016 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship one of the best ever.

If you’re not watching V8 Supercars yet, you should be. The Australian racing series has been a particularly strong league in 2016, giving motorsports fans some entertaining and competitive races to keep them on the edge of their seats.

Whether it’s the sheer unpredictability of every event or the quality of the on-track product, there are numerous reasons to make V8 Supercars your next motorsports obsession. Here are a few of the reasons why the 2016 season has stood above past campaigns – and possibly been one of the best seasons in all of motorsports this year.

This season began with an amazing run of parity. Ten different drivers won the opening twelve races, including shock victories by Nick Percat, Michael Caruso and Tim Slade, who swept the Winton weekend.

With big names like Chaz Mostert, Fabian Coulthard, and Garth Tander still yet to find victory, there is no reason to think the 2015 total of ten different winners won’t be overtaken by year’s end. And that level playing field has only contributed to raising the overall quality of Supercars races.

James Courtney and Jamie Whincup began the season in style with a thrilling duel in Adelaide. From there, the great Tasmanian oil slick put almost as many cars in the dirt as the ending of Mad Max: The Road Warrior. Mark Winterbottom’s winning margin in Perth was by the slimmest of margins.

Triple Eight alone has provided more than a season’s enough action and with the title likely to be decided between their three drivers, fans can expect more drama from the motor racing equivalent of Hawthorn.

Increased race distances have added to the vigor of the on-track action. V8 Supercars had previously implemented shorter race formats in hopes of improving the racing quality following the zaniness of the 2012 Sandown qualifying races, and it didn’t work. Sprint races proved to be more forgettable than Jacques Villeneuve’s music career. Actually, who could forget that? My point is, the races were bad.

So the league has gone the other direction. The longer races open up the door for strategy to play a deciding factor, resulting in closer racing and a more open field. This season has Neil Crompton and Mark Skaife saying it is “on for young and old” weekly.

The business of V8 Supercars is looking up as well. The mid-season signing and re-branding of the series was a sign the championship is as strong as it has ever been.

Amid turmoil with Volvo announcing its intentions to leave and doubts over the future of Nissan, the recommitting of Holden was good news for the category. Nothing sounds as scary as “Red Bull Holden Racing Team.” Well, maybe “Jacques Villeneuve in a V8 Supercar,” but that’s it.

That’s the good stuff, but we’d be amiss if we didn’t point out that not everything in the world of V8 Supercars has been sunshine and rainbows. For the rain on the parade, we have to acknowledge the cancellation of Kuala Lumpur. Who didn’t see this coming? The series has always had problems with overseas races and there was no reason to believe this year would be different.

And while we’re on the subject of not showing up, then there’s the aforementioned Volvo issue. The Swedish manufacturer’s announcement that they would not be supporting Garry Rogers’ team was disheartening to say the least. The brand’s involvement helped boost GRM’s competitiveness and the pairing with Scott McLaughlin made them one of the most popular teams in the paddock. Garry is still campaigning to run S60s next season, but nothing is confirmed.

At least he’s doing better than Lee Holdsworth. A hard shunt at Hidden Valley put the 33-year-old out of action for the season’s mid-stretch. Luckily, Lee is feeling better and returns at Sandown. Thankfully, this season has seen a 100 percent decrease in injuries caused by low flying Navy helicopters. Poor James Courtney.

But perhaps the wackiest thing to happen off-track this season was the Erebus sponsorship drama.

Sponsors switching teams is not unusual, but doing it mid-round is. That’s what happened at Townsville, as an argument between Plus Fitness boss John Fuller and Betty Klimenko reportedly went nuclear. Fuller stormed out of the garage and straight to Erebus’ neighbors, Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport.

What can we expect from the rest of the 2016 V8 Supercars season?

Jamie Whincup is probably the best Australian Touring Car driver in history, making him hard to bet against to win the drivers’ championship. While Whincup will be difficult to defeat, Shane Van Gisbergen should put up one huge fight.

Prodrive needs to step up its game over the Enduro season if it is to defend its crown. If qualifying pace is there their race pace tends not to be and vice versa. They’re definitely struggling, but the Dean Canto and Mark Winterbottom partnership is strong enough that they could net some huge points over the next three rounds.

For that reason we’re picking Canto and Winterbottom’s No. 1 Ford Falcon to take home the Peter Brock Trophy at Bathurst.

What do you think of the 2016 V8 Supercars season so far? Who do you believe will win the championship?

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