Ahead of next week’s anticipated return of Australia’s premier touring car category, it was announced that the second-tier development category would be undergoing a major revamp in 2017.
The ‘Dunlop’ Development Series will henceforth be known as Super2, in a bid to align the category further with its bigger brother.
Most intriguingly and the most pertinent change to the system, is the introduction of a ‘wildcard’ scheme, which’ll see Super2 drivers fronted the opportunity to race at select events in the main-game.
Winton, Barbagallo, Hidden Valley and the Ipswich rounds will see rising stars such as Jack Le Brocq, Macauley Jones and James Golding make their solo debuts.
Why this concept holds great importance for the future of Supercars and young drivers currently in the feeder ranks, is that it exposes them to an individual experience behind the wheel – as now their only opportunity comes during the trio of endurance races.
Team owner and Supercars Board Member Brad Jones told Supercars.com, “It’s pretty exciting and the intensity difference from the enduros and sprint races is one of the reasons the Commission have been looking at this.
“I think it will give young drivers the opportunity to see just how hard the other drivers run at a sprint event which is hard.”
2016 saw second-tier drivers in 17-year-old Kurt Kostecki and DVS debutant Shae Davies enter the Supercars fray with little fruit to be yielded.
Kostecki was called into Charlie Schwerkolt’s team to substitute for an injured Lee Holdsworth, as the youngster’s family were the only source for a new chassis for the squad – with the Holdsworth wreck from Darwin beyond immediate repair.
Davies was shoehorned into the rebuilding Erebus Motorsport, who were forced to replace Aaren Russell after a sponsorship dispute.
Both with little experience, even in the Development Series were thrown into deep-end, with not even a top fifteen result being earnt by either.
Where these outfits could have brought in experienced hands to caretake or to temporarily operate those seats, it was ultimately decided upon to go with the riskier options – which were the uninitiated.
Super2’s wildcard approach seems to be a more appropriate method to begin transitioning talent over to the main-game.
Le Brocq, Jones and Golding already boast experience as endurance drivers for their respective outfits, so making select sprint race appearances seems the natural step for them to taste solo driving.
Since the arrival of the last batch of star drivers such as Scott McLaughlin and Chaz Mostert in 2013, there has not really been any other driver who has graduated from the second-tier and made an immediate impact on Supercars.
Cam Waters’ much anticipated solo debut for the championship winning Prodrive Racing Australia team fizzled away quickly in 2016, with the rookie struggling to nineteenth in the championship. Perhaps more experience the year before, apart from his substitution of an injured Mostert post-Bathurst, could have had the 22-year-old better prepared for the storm ahead.
This latest step in furthering the development of young drivers for Australia’s premier touring car category, is a step towards the positive.
With opportunities overseas limited for young drivers these days, more seem to turn to the local racing scene – which should not be seen as a failure of the driver, but an opportunity to embrace a career that emulate the great Craig Lowndes.