Welcome to Race Chaser Online’s preview of the 2014 V8 Supercars Championship! Over the course of the week, we are going to preview all of the teams and drivers competing for the title this season. There will be multiple previews each day, and it will all culminate on Friday when we examine the top teams in the series and preview the season-opening race in Adelaide! Make sure to check Race Chaser Online every day this week for all of your stateside-based news from the world of V8 Supercars!
To offer a quick explanation on the V8 Supercars rules regarding teams — In the V8 Supercars Championship, no team is allowed to own more than two cars. However, teams can form alliances with other teams to create “conglomerate” teams of three and four cars running with chassis from the same shop. These alliances are called Racing Entitlement Contracts, and they are often found with the lower-level teams in the V8SC.
We start our 2014 V8 Supercars Championship Preview with a look at one of those alliance teams, Walkinshaw Racing.
Walkinshaw Racing (Alliance with Holden Racing Team, REC with James Rosenberg Racing)
#47 – Tim Slade, Supercheap Auto Holden Commodore VF
#222 – Nick Percat, Walkinshaw Racing Holden Commodore VF
2013 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 15th
2013 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Russell Ingall’s third-place finish on Sunday at the Gold Coast
For Walkinshaw Racing, it truly is a brave new world. They enter the 2014 season with two new cars, two new drivers, and two new car numbers — the only major holdovers that the fans will notice are the primary sponsorship of Supercheap Auto and the continued alliance with the Holden Racing Team.
In 2013, Walkinshaw Racing ran one car- the #66 Supercheap Auto Commodore of 2005 V8SC champion Russell Ingall.
Last year, the “Enforcer” (as regular followers of the V8SC call him) announced that he would be retiring at the end of the 2013 season after five years with Supercheap Auto. However, Ingall followed in the footsteps of NASCAR’s Mark Martin and ultimately chose to return to racing in 2014. The Enforcer will compete under the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport banner.
Coming in to replace Ingall will be 29-year-old Tim Slade. Slade comes to Walkinshaw Racing as part of Walkinshaw’s new Racing Entitlement Contract with James Rosenberg Racing. Slade drove JRR’s REC as the third car at Erebus Motorsport in 2013, but the team decided to sever their alliance with Erebus at the end of last season.
As part of the new deal, Slade will become the driver of the #47 Supercheap Auto Holden Commodore, and the JRR REC will see Walkinshaw Racing expand to a two-car operation from 2014. Nick Percat will pilot the JRR REC car as the #222. The second car does not have a primary sponsor as of now, but Walkinshaw Racing is actively searching for one to fill out the season.
With the two new drivers comes a shift in philosophy for Walkinshaw. In Ingall, they had the most veteran driver in the V8SC. With Slade and Percat, Walkinshaw will have two drivers looking to establish themselves as forces in the series. Slade has showed promise over the five seasons he’s spent in the V8SC, but has not been given the chance to be the “number one” driver on a race team. At Walkinshaw, he will get his chance to be a leader.
Percat, on the other hand, is the latest young gun to get a chance at a full-time V8SC ride. This will be Nick’s first full season as a driver in the V8 Supercars Championship. He comes to Walkinshaw with a strong CV, which includes a victory in the 2011 Bathurst 1000 as co-driver with Garth Tander for the Holden Racing Team and a runner-up finish last year in the Australian Carrera Cup points standings. This is an opportunity that Percat has been working on for some time; now that he has it, fans of the V8 Supercars Series will finally get a chance to see what he can do.
The strength of Percat’s machine is somewhat of an unknown since his team is, in effect, brand new. However, fans should expect that his performances will be better than those of his old REC (Tim Slade’s #47 Erebus Motosports Mercedes from a year ago). Simply put, there is nowhere to go but up for Percat and his car, because it has no history and cannot perform much worse than the #47 did in 2013 — its season was a long, miserable drag, to say the least.
Likewise, Slade should expect 2014 to be much better than his 2013 was. Erebus Motosport suffered all sorts of mechanical troubles in their maiden season as a race team, and never had any pace to compete for a win. His move to Walkinshaw was partially to cut the losses that an overstretched Erebus suffered, but also to get back to the performance level that he experienced during his career-best 2012 season. That year, he finished on the podium three times and finished in the top 10 in 23 races en route to fifth place in the points standings.
In 2013, the Supercheap Auto Holden Commodore was faster and less prone to mechanical issues than Slade’s car at Erebus was. While Erebus was sorting out the mechanical gremlins, Ingall was consistently running between 10th and 20th for the majority of 2013. Likewise, Slade’s performances with his new Commodore should be better than his performances with the Erebus were a season ago. Barring the unexpected, Slade should not repeat feat of finishing 20th or worse 20 times.
In a best-case scenario, Slade comes close to matching his 2012 season; in a worst-case scenario, he sees little improvement over his 2013. Maybe the most realistic expectation is for Slade to roughly match what Ingall did with this car a season ago. If Slade does that. he will likely spend much of 2014 right in the middle of the pack, with a few retirements and a podium or two sprinkled throughout.
Walkinshaw Racing might be the one team that benefits the most from the return of Sydney Motorsports Park to the V8 Supercars calendar — when the series last ran there (in 2012), Ingall took the Supercheap Auto car to a surprise pair of fourth and fifth place finishes over the race weekend. Given that Slade historically runs better in the second half of the season than the first, the weekend in Eastern Creek might be the one that tells the biggest tale of Tim Slade’s 2014 season.
For more information about Walkinshaw Racing, make sure to visit their website at http://www.supercheapautoracing.com.au.