CAMPBELLFIELD, Victoria, Australia – Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship season previews! Today we complete our preview of Prodrive Racing with the main cars.
Prodrive Racing Australia
No. 5 – Mark Winterbottom, The Bottle-O Racing Ford Falcon FGX
No. 6 – Cam Waters, Ford Falcon FGX
2016 DRIVERS POINTS FINISH: Mark Winterbottom – 6th, Cam Waters – 19th
2016 HIGHEST RACE FINISH: Mark’s wins at Barbagallo and Pukekohe
Most teams would be okay with the season Prodrive Racing Australia had in 2016. But Prodrive Racing Australia doesn’t fall into the category of “most teams”.
By their standards, it was incredibly disappointing. Having finally broken through to win his first series championship in 2015, Mark Winterbottom fell to sixth in the team standings last year.
Not to say that the car wasn’t fast at all, because the No. 5 had its moments. There was a stretch between Symmons Plains and Townsville where “Frosty” hit the podium in 7 of 11 races. But two of those four runs that were not on the podium were especially poor – a 22nd in the first race at Barbagallo and a 20th at Darwin were big blows to his title defense. Those runs in particular, combined with an 11th and 14th at Sydney Motorsport Park and a 23rd at Sandown, sunk his championship hopes completely.
Winterbottom himself summarized his season well right after that Sandown run:
“The Championship – we may as well peel it off,” he said, referring to the tradition of the defending champion running the No. 1 on their doors. “We’re nowhere now. We’ll try and win Bathurst, try and win the next ones and push on – but we need a quick car, the car’s inconsistent. Today it was good and we wasted it … we could’ve won that race.”
How often, in retrospect, did it seem like that story replayed itself so many times in 2016 for the Sydney native.
In the other car, Cam Waters came into the main game for the first time in 2016, having won the 2015 Dunlop Super2 Series title with Prodrive. Expectations were high, especially since Chaz Mostert had been performing so well before a massive crash in a qualifying session for the 2015 Bathurst 1000 left him sidelined for the remainder of the season with a broken wrist and leg (Chaz was second in points coming into the race).
The car and team were there for Waters to immediately contend. But Waters needed most of 2016 to get used to the extra power of the Supercars.
By all accounts, he struggled in his first full-time season: five DNFs (though three of those were mechanical failures of some kind), no podiums, and only five top-ten finishes.
Waters will be expected to perform better now that he has a full season of Supercars experience under his belt. The good news is that he has time: Waters won’t turn 23 until August, and has many seasons in Supercars ahead of him to figure out the Falcon.
As for Winterbottom, his long-time status as Ford’s No. 1 driver in the series will be under fire in a way that it hasn’t since Will Davison was his teammate in 2012. The main challenges will come from either his current teammate, Chaz Mostert, or one of Fabian Coulthard or Scott McLaughlin from the Shell V-Power Racing Team.
They might have more momentum than Winterbottom coming into 2017, but Winterbottom has the accolades (both a series title and a Bathurst 1000 title) and the experience advantage. Count against him at your own peril.
For more information on Prodrive Racing Australia, visit www.prodriveracing.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.
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