MELBOURNE, Victoria, Australia – Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2017 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship season previews! Closer to the front of the grid now – up next are the Mobil 1 HSV Racing team!
Mobil 1 HSV Racing
No. 2 – Scott Pye, Mobil 1 HSV Racing Holden Commodore VF
No. 22 – James Courtney, Mobil 1 HSV Racing Holden Commodore VF
2016 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 2nd
2016 HIGHEST RACE FINISH: James Courtney and Garth Tander’s wins at Adelaide and Townsville, respectively
What is in a name, really? That is the question that Mobil 1 HSV Racing will ask the Supercars grid in 2017.
The biggest change of the offseason for this team comes right in the their name: gone is the factory title of the Holden Racing Team, after Holden executives decided to move that sponsorship over to Triple Eight Race Engineering. They now become the Red Bull Holden Racing Team. This team, the old HRT, changes its name for 2017 and becomes Mobil 1 HSV Racing, representing the famed Holden Special Vehicles department which is responsible for producing some of the famed marque’s most high-performance versions of their street cars.
One of their drivers returns through the name change, as James Courtney is back for season number seven behind the wheel of the No. 22. He will look to improve on a 2016 that was slightly below his standards. His average start and finish numbers (both just over 11) dropped to their lowest numbers since 2012, as did his number of podiums (4).
The other driver, however, has gone elsewhere, as Garth Tander has moved to Garry Rogers Motorsport after a decade with Mobil 1 HSV. In his place comes Scott Pye, who joins the team from DJR Team Penske.
Pye’s youth was one of the big reasons as to why Mobil 1 HSV wanted him, as he is only 27 years old. But Pye also has proven his ability to belong in Supercars as a full-time driver. With DJRTP, he put together the best season of his career in 2016, with a pole (at Clipsal) and two podiums (at Phillip Island and Pukekohe, with the latter being a runner-up finish).
Outside of the name change and Tander’s departure, not much else is new at Mobil 1 HSV Racing. The biggest question for this team is the same as it seems to have been for the past few years: can they carry the momentum from Adelaide into the rest of the Supercars season?
The Clipsal 500 has been Courtney’s playground in particular as of late. He is the only driver in the championship to win at least one of the races in Adelaide over the last three seasons. But that success hasn’t translated into season-wide speed, and last year was no exception: after the season-opening round, he didn’t see the podium again until Townsville in July.
Should Courtney want to stand a chance of repeating his series championship run from 2010, he will need to find speed at places like Symmons Plains, Phillip Island, and Winton – all places where he has had trouble in recent seasons.
There is something to be said in Pye’s arrival, though, especially for Courtney’s case – the interplay between the two will be different than it was with Garth Tander, and that might open both drivers up to different perspectives previously unseen – and potentially, more speed with them.
Pye’s road to success in 2017 centers around consistency more than anything else. In the eight races spanning from the finale at Winton to the first race at Sydney Motorsport Park, he finished in the top seven three times – but also DNF’d twice and finished outside of the top 20 twice. His PIRTEK Enduro Cup results read similarly – a fifth-place run in the Bathurst 1000 was sandwiched by a 15th at Sandown and then an 18th and 23rd at Surfers Paradise. Improve those numbers with more top tens, and Pye’s championship results should look much more like what he is capable of as a driver.
Amidst all of this change, there is one constant: this team will be fast at Clipsal. Barring the unexpected, Courtney and Pye will be quick in the season-opening round and be in the hunt for at least one win. It will be the few months that follow – and how quick these two drivers are in the fall months down in Australia – that will be the biggest indicator as to how this team will fare in 2017.
For more information on Mobil 1 HSV Racing, visit www.mobil1hsvracing.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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