ALBURY, New South Wales, Australia – Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship season previews! Onward from the Nissans we go and to another Holden team in Brad Jones Racing.
Brad Jones Racing
No. 8 – Nick Percat, Team BOC Holden Commodore VF
No. 14 – Tim Slade, Freightliner Racing Holden Commodore VF
No. 21 – Tim Blanchard, Team CoolDrive Holden Commodore VF
2016 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 6th
2016 HIGHEST RACE FINISH: Tim Slade’s sweep of the weekend at Winton
The changing of the guard is complete at Brad Jones Racing coming into 2017, with their future direction more settled than at any point in recent memory.
It represents the completion of a process that began some two seasons ago. For many years, it was the pairing of Jason Bright and Fabian Coulthard that led this team.
Then, at the end of the 2015 season, Coulthard left to take a seat with DJR Team Penske. Tim Slade was brought over from Walkinshaw Racing to fill the position – and he did not disappoint.
In 2016, Slade had arguably the best season of his career, posting his best finish in the final points standings since 2012, when he was with Stone Brothers Racing. That eighth-place points finish also brought Slade the first two victories of his career, as he swept the weekend at Winton Motor Speedway.
Paired with a podium at Darwin, Slade’s numbers were strong across the board. Yet there were some races where bad luck and mechanical issues kept the team from finishing as high as their car was running (the brake fire at Bathurst that occurred while the No. 14 had come down pit road from the lead jumps immediately to mind).
Those sorts of things represent the greatest challenge that separates Slade from more success in 2017. There is no doubt that the car and driver are plenty fast enough to hit the podium and win races multiple times over the course of the season.
Over in the No. 8 garage, things look very much like they did for the No. 14 at the start of 2016. The Team BOC machine had been Jason Bright’s for many seasons, but throughout the whole of 2016 he looked like a driver in need of a change of scenery. Bright did just that in the offseason, moving over to Prodrive Racing Australian and taking his Racing Entitlement Contract (REC) with him.
Tim Blanchard bought the REC from Super Black Racing to continue his position with Brad Jones Racing for 2017, and Blanchard’s old REC moved over to the No. 8. The Team CoolDrive machine had a penchant for showing up in the major races of the series in 2016, finishing 11th in Adelaide and 10th at the Bathurst 1000. Blanchard’s best moments this season will likely again come from strong performances at places like Sandown, Surfers Paradise, Bathurst, and the Clipsal 500.
In the third car, Nick Percat comes in as the new driver for Team BOC, racing with an REC directly owned by Brad Jones Racing.
For Percat, this new car represents both a product of his prior successes and the next logical step in his career. In the past five years, he has come from co-driving with Garth Tander at the then-Holden Racing Team (and winning Bathurst, no less!) to driving full-time for Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, and now, to Brad Jones Racing.
Percat proved in the underfunded and undermanned car at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport that he was talented enough to belong in Supercars for a long time. Especially after he won on Sunday at the Clipsal 500 last year, it seemed inevitable that he would get a call to drive one of the cars with more resources on the grid.
In Percat, Brad Jones has picked up a young driver (at only 28 years of age) with whom he can build a team around for many seasons to come. It also helps that Blanchard (at 29 years old) and Slade (at 31 years of age) are all within a few years of Percat. Expect Percat to do nothing less than to take advantage of the new resources he has at BJR to continue to move up the grid and the points standings.
With Percat’s addition, the transition period at Brad Jones Racing is now complete. The old guard has exited, and the foundations are all in place for continued success across multiple seasons of Supercars action, especially on the personnel front. BJR’s biggest mission in 2017 will be to begin nailing down the mechanical end of their operations – once they have those figured out, expect podiums and wins to follow en masse for the longtime Holden outfit.
For more information on Brad Jones Racing, visit www.bradjonesracing.com.au
For more information on the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, visit www.supercars.com.
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
He is the lead correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars and also covers regional touring series events in the Carolinas. He is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and currently resides in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Email James at: RaceChaserJames@gmail.com
Follow on Twitter: @JamesVPike
Email Race Chaser Online: email@example.com
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews