A few predictions for the 2019 V8 Supercars season
The mighty Mustang
A note that seems to have been somewhat overshadowed by Scott McLaughlin’s championship win is the fact that, for the other 6 Ford pilots in the field, 2018 was a lean year at best. Largely due to a combination of the appearance of the Triple Eight-built ZB “Commodores” and the series’ reversion to the 2016 tyre (after 2017’s compound proved to be too failure-prone), only Chaz Mostert and Fabian Coultard could contribute to the Falcon’s tally, with a single win apiece.
The ‘leapfrog’ effect of new cars being ever so slightly faster than their predecessors has been exacerbated in recent years, with both the FG-X Falcon and ZB delivering a notable upswing in performance to their respective teams in their inaugural seasons. Therefore, logic dictates that next year’s Mustang, having been developed by the engineering cream of two of V8SC’s most successful teams, should give said teams (as well as 23Red) something of a shot in the arm – one that appears to be sorely needed at Tickford. Although the team’s personnel have repeatedly stated their belief that the Mustang will be no silver bullet, it would be surprising if the combination of a new car, familiar tyre compound, and the increasing effectiveness of the Mostert/De Borre double act does not yield in a noticeable improvement in the performance of at least one of their cars.
No factory, no front row
Although Holden has enjoyed a lot of success in the category since 1993, the record books show that a substantial majority of these successes have come courtesy of the organisations to have borne factory team status (Walkinshaw and Triple Eight); by contrast, the non-factory Holden scoreboard is a rather more barren affair. Whilst BJR, GRM et al did enjoy a newfound competitiveness in 2013 thanks to the introduction of the VF Commodore (as part of the then-new Car of the Future regulations), any ZB-induced spike in performance of a similar magnitude largely failed to materialise last year. With the aforementioned teams both having gone winless in their first year of competition with a new car (and WAU not faring much better), the season ahead does not look especially rosy for those Holden teams without access to the GMH piggy bank.
Of course, the recent exception here is Melbourne’s Erebus Motorsport. Having translated a breakthrough Bathurst win in 2017 into a very convincing championship campaign last year, the oddball two-car squad looks set to repeat its solid performance in 2019, especially now that David Reynolds has a properly handy number 2 in the form of Anton De Pasquale. With his rookie season now done and dusted in promising fashion (including an impressive showing at Bathurst), the 2013 Formula Ford champion will almost certainly make himself a valuable asset within the team. The irony in their success is that, unlike other red teams, Erebus seems to have made absolutely no effort to foster any affinity with either Triple Eight or GM Holden, even going so far as to replace their cars’ lion-and-stone badges with a stylised ‘E’ for Erebus. As such, the Dandenong-based squad would appear to be the ideal candidate for any mythical fourth manufacturer’s entry to the sport, in the highly unlikely event that a business case could be made for entering such a tightly regulated category.
Still at the front
As ever, the spectre of Triple Eight Race Engineering will be looming over the V8 Supercars circus this season. Having fallen into the Holden fold in 2010 after the loss of Ford factory funding, Roland Dane’s operation has utterly dominated the series in recent years, winning eight driver’s championships, nine team’s championships, and seven Bathurst crowns. With the retirement of poster boy Craig Lowndes, the team has in one stroke shod itself of a cash-sucking third car and gained a formidable endurance co-pilot; from the outside, it looks as if they take the performance potential of the Mustang as a very serious threat. If nothing else, the hiring of 2007 champion Garth Tander to co-drive the #97 car with Shane Van Gisbergen, after the former’s abrupt dismissal from GRM at the start of the year, almost certainly means that RBHRT has the two most capable endurance pairings for the coming season, and should pick up at least one of the four long-form wins on offer. With a leaner, meaner line-up, Triple Eight will again be very much the benchmark team this year.