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The next chapter of the V8 Supercars season is in full swing. After three races on Australia’s eastern coast, the series takes a three week break to trek across the Nullarbor to Perth.
After seven races, trends are beginning to emerge, stories beginning to play out and this year’s title contenders are becoming more and more prevalent.
1. Jamie Whincup
The man who knows how to get it done, Jamie Whincup had a stranglehold over V8 Supercars for most of the last decade.
After enduring a difficult start to last year, he began to find his feet later in the championship, and has come into the championship in full stride.
After romping away with the first win of the year, Whincup has been remarkably consistent over the first three weekends, scoring five top five finishes out of seven.
He currently leads the drivers championship by a slender margin of 15 points, and has established himself as the man to beat this year.
2. Scott McLaughlin
After a forgettable 2015 campaign, Scott McLaughlin has come back with a bang in 2016. He had a strong start to the season in Adelaide, cracking the top five twice, before dominating at Phillip Island, the only driver so far with two wins on the board.
With Volvo recommitting to the sport, McLaughlin is sure to have ample support from the manufacturer, as well as GRM. If McLaughlin can put together a strong weekend, he could be unstoppable.
3. Mark Winterbottom
The defending champion had an ordinary start to his 2016 campaign, which was to be expected given the FG X’s vulnerabilities on street circuits. He’s currently sitting pretty at third place in the championship, having taken two podiums, but a win remains elusive.
Given his strong form in the last few races, particularly with his one lap qualifying pace, victories will come, although Winterbottom needs to get a win on the board soon in order to establish himself in the championship fight.
4. Craig Lowndes
We are yet to see if Lowndes’ move to Team Vortex will pay dividends, but the early signs are looking strong.
After an ordinary weekend at Adelaide, Craig Lowndes has made the podium twice and has stayed in the top six. Like Winterbottom, a win remains elusive, but Lowndes has got the resources to do it.
Considering that Lowndes last run for the championship came late in the year, it would not be surprising if Lowndes stays in the shadows for the start of the season, before coming in hard during the later rounds and the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
5. Will Davison
The surprise runner, Davison has had an uphill battle to get into the fight. Moving manufacturers meant that during Adelaide he was on the back foot, learning the ropes with the Holden.
He’s also lost Steve Hallam, Tekno’s expert race engineer, before the second weekend. His form at Symmons Plains was truly astonishing, taking a win and a podium. His form at Phillip Island was more ordinary however. If Davison is able to notch up a few more wins, he could certainly be in with a shout for the championship.
Then, there are the dark horses.
1. Chaz Mostert
Chaz has struggled to put together a good weekend all year, despite having good one lap pace and getting a podium. His reputation as the crash kid is still following him, especially after his crash at Turn eight at Adelaide and his tyre blowout at Phillip Island.
2. James Courtney
After the first weekend, it looked like HRT had managed to purge the demons from their garage. Courtney grabbed a win, the cars looked quick, and the decision to shed the extra car seemed to have paid off. But the team still continue to struggle where it matters: the road courses.
3. Michael Caruso
Oh, you laugh at me at putting a Nissan on this list. But it could still happen.