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Conrod, Straight: Issue 1

24/11/2005 12:42 (Michael Shaw) - Welcome to the first edition of ‘Conrod, Straight’. This is a weekly discourse where I will bring the news, my views and information on V8 Supercars. I will be doing my best to have this published on Wednesday each week but please forgive me if I’m off by a day once in a while. Also, the format may be reduced to fortnightly over the off-season, depending on how much input I receive from readers and, of course, the teams (who kinda like to use the off-season as a break, Go Figure).

The purpose of this weekly fixture is to bring some of the V8 Supercar news to you and look at some of the impact it has on the sport. It won’t contain all of the news of the week and isn’t aiming to be first on anything. I will also be able to discuss or answer questions that anyone has about V8 Supercars, so feel free to send me questions and queries that you may have about the sport, the cars, the drivers or the teams. There won’t be much mention of rumour as this is more than covered in the forums, not just the one here on Conrod.

Obviously there are two things on everyone’s lips this week. Firstly there’s the announcement of Toll joining the HSV Dealer Team for 2006. This is rather significant for the sport as, along with Stegbar/Jeld-Wen, it shows that there are companies seeing the benefits of V8 Supercars. Both of these companies are upping their support within the sport, and this can only be a good thing. In Toll’s case they are changing teams from Paul Little’s own team, together with Anthony Tratt, over to the Kelly’s HSV Dealer Team. This reinforces and strengthens the trend set by BOC earlier this year, when it increased its stake in the industry becoming the naming-rights sponsor of Brad Jones Racing.

It’s a reasonably obvious choice for any prospective sponsor wanting to join a front-running team, for next season. The only other possibility remaining in the field would have been Larry Perkins, being the only other leading team without a major sponsor for the 2006 season. I’m sure Larry was lobbying hard to have Toll move up within the Perkins Engineering operation, but in the end the Kelly’s got the contract.

If Larry, as he suggested earlier in the year, brings a new-to-motorsport company into the field, then that is likely to encourage others to do likewise. WPS, Wow Sight & Sound and Dodo are recent additions to the motorsport fold and with the expanding market of China and Bahrain and the continued push into New Zealand, there’s good reason for more international companies to sign up.

This weekend sees the final round of both the V8 Supercar Championship Series and the HPDC V8 Supercar Series, to give them their formal titles.

Dean Canto is leading the HPDC series by a handful of points. Warren Luff heads the group of chasers including Gary MacDonald and Phillip Scifleet. Unfortunately for the followers, they’re unlikely to defeat Canto. Dean has taken most of the rounds and, if it wasn’t for a crash in the reverse grid race at Wakefield Park, would most likely have an unbeatable lead in the championship. Canto’s previous experience at Phillip Island isn’t exactly auspicious with the best result being 4th in the V8 Lites, as it was then known, in 2000. I don’t expect this to be any hindrance to his races on the weekend. His two events with Garry Rogers will have helped his driving and his career prospects as he acquitted himself rather well, even if he wasn’t a challenge to the front of the field.

As Wakefield Park so excellently showed, it’s impossible to rule anything out and Warren Luff isn’t going to give up. Expect 3 tough races for all involved and a bit of action throughout the field.

Everyone already knows about the V8 Supercar championship and the contenders, so there isn’t a lot I could possibly add. Russell Ingall does have the advantage by having a reasonable, though not too significant, lead. My prediction is Craig Lowndes to win the round but Ingall to scrape in with the championship, having reached his target of eighth or better in each of the three races. Both of them, and Marcos Ambrose, our third though more unlikely contender, have performed well all season and as with the HPDC Series, anything can happen.

This weekend also sees farewells from a few people. Paul Weel is stepping back to look after his business interests with the PWR empire, being replaced by a mystery driver otherwise known and Cameron McConville. Glenn Seton is being “moved on” from Dick Johnson Racing and is not guaranteed a start for 2006, with most of the seats at Ford already filled; Glenn being one of the most loyal Ford drivers is unlikely to defect to one of the empty seats on the other side of that great divide. One of the more unfortunate sides for Seton would be that he will not overtake Dick Johnson, nor Peter Brock, for championship starts. With only 2 races required to overtake DJ, at the very least I hope that a team does give Glenn a run in the enduros.

It’s also Steven Ellery’s last race for Triple Eight Racing. After only 1 season, Ellery hasn’t lived up to the expectations of being Craig Lowndes’ teammate in the eyes of the team and quite a few supporters. The speed has been there on occasion, including an excellent third place at Bathurst, but the consistency has been lacking. Speaking to the team earlier in the year, I was told that he was expected to be a consistent top 10 runner and this just hasn’t happened often enough, with plenty of panels having been bent along the way.

Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom, and Cameron McConville farewell their teams and have confirmed (or almost confirmed in McConville and PWR’s case) seats for next season. Both Jamie and Mark have a huge weight of expectation on their shoulders to perform next year, having been selected to team up with two of the top Ford teams and drivers. I expect that they will be able to make the step required to take their own performance to the next level. These two are considered in some respects to be the next generation of V8 Supercar driver; remembering the Skaifes, Joneses and Ingalls of V8s have been around for quite a while now……

This, of course, leaves Marcos Ambrose. The first to announce he was leaving, he has finally put in place his 2006 plans. With truck racing and ovals being his staple diet, he’ll want to finish the season on a high and, at the very least, take out his final round with a win and even the championship. It’s a long shot on the latter but I wouldn’t rule out the former.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first edition of ‘Conrod, Straight’.

Release Date: 24/11/2005