CAMPBELLFIELD, Victoria, Australia — Team Preview by Race Chaser Online V8 Supercars Correspondent James Pike — Robert Cianflone/Getty Images AsiaPac photos —
Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s Preview of the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship! We continue our run through the field with the slightly adjusted Racing Entitlement Contract teams for Prodrive Racing Australia (formerly Ford Performance Racing) in 2015, consisting of Rod Nash Racing and newcomers Super Black Racing.
Rod Nash Racing (REC with Prodrive Racing Australia)
DRIVER: No. 55 – David Reynolds, The Bottle-O Ford Falcon FGX
2014 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 12th
2014 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: David’s third-place finish in the opening race at Homebush; David saying hi to Levi and Chilli (Craig Lowndes’ children) at Sandown
Unlike the majority of the rest of the back half of the V8 Supercars grid, there is little change for Rod Nash Racing coming into 2015. But like the rest of those teams, there are clouds of uncertainty hanging over RNR as well.
The largest changes at RNR for this upcoming season are the introduction of the Ford Falcon FGX chassis and the arrival of a new engineer for the team, Brad Wischusen, who comes over from the ranks of Prodrive Racing Australia (last year’s engineer, Nathaniel Osborne, moved up to the PRA operation proper to take up the same role).
Compared to the other teams around RNR in the 2014 Team Standings, that counts as stability by comparison. The problem for the No. 55 Bottle-O Ford is that that stability has been there for three years now, and the pace that one would suspect would be there has yet to consistently appear.
In many ways, David Reynolds’ 2014 was a lesser microcosm of what parent team driver Mark Winterbottom’s was. Both drivers struggled, but not because of any sort of bad luck avoiding accidents or mechanical malfunctions. Instead, both drivers simply suffered from a lack of pace.
In Reynolds’ case, he only had a single podium in 2014 (at the opener at Homebush) and four top five finishes. Even worse was the fact that last season lacked that one signature moment that the prior two before it had (Bathurst in 2012 and the Gold Coast win in 2013) to build any sort of momentum off of.
Ironically, the greatest long-term threat to Rod Nash Racing comes not from anything on the track, but from the boardroom. The decision from Ford to leave V8 Supercars at the end of 2015 begins with a severe decrease in fund support to Prodrive Racing- which means that even less money will trickle down to RNR this season. Meanwhile, David Reynolds is entering the final year of his contract. Since he joined RNR, he has shown glimmers of promise and pace, but neither have really materialized into something consistent.
Should “Daffo” and company trudge through another ho-hum season, one would not be mistaken for being highly suspicious that Reynolds would leave this team to try his hand with another group on the V8 Supercars grid in order to truly jumpstart his career. Add to it the fact that Prodrive would theoretically be running Fords as a privateer (much as Erebus Motorsport does with its Mercedes) in 2016, and there is a chance that this REC will be returned to V8 Supercars and the team consolidated into Prodrive proper in order to strengthen the “mother team’s” efforts.
In that sense, the 2015 season for Rod Nash Racing might not just be a matter of competing to win, but competing to survive into 2016.
For more information on Rod Nash Racing, visit www.thebottle-oracing.com.
Super Black Racing (REC with Prodrive Racing Australia)
DRIVER: No. 111 – Andre Heimgartner, Super Black Racing Ford Falcon FGX
2014 TEAM POINTS FINISH: N/A
2014 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: Andre and Ant Pedersen’s 11th-placed finish in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000
Super Black Racing will join the V8 Supercars grid for the first time in 2015 after a successful run as a wild-card entry in the 2014 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
The team is the first to market themselves as an all-New Zealander outfit in the series, and the logic is plausible after seeing Kiwi drivers make the jump to V8 Supercars and succeed on the highest stage of Australasian motorsport (most notably in Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin). To that end, they have enlisted 19-year-old New Zealander Andre Heimgartner to pilot their car in their debut season.
Though incredibly young to be making an appearance in the V8 Supercars, Heimgartner comes with multiple seasons of New Zealand V8 SuperTourer experience and V8 Dunlop Series seat time- suffice it to say that the jump to the V8 Supercars should not come as much of a shock.
This team will come in and effectively take the old “satellite team” slot in the Prodrive Racing Australia stable that Charlie Schwerkolt Racing held last season; likewise, they will be running some variant of the Ford Falcon (though given the stretched resources at Prodrive with Ford’s announcement to leave the series at the end of 2015, this team might be the last to receive one of the new Ford Falcon FGXs).
Given that this team is new, the definition of success will not be that high. The beauty of that is that Super Black Racing created their own blueprint for success in their 2014 run at Bathurst. In an event where so many drivers ran into trouble, either via on-track or mechanical issues, Heimgartner and codriver Ant Pedersen drove the Super Black Racing machine through one of (if not the) cleanest races by any team on the mountain. They didn’t make any major mistakes and stayed out of trouble en route to an 11th-placed finish.
That run at Bathurst should be the strategy for Super Black in 2015: be consistent, stay out of trouble, and capitalize on the mistakes of other teams to jump up through the standings. If they can establish that tactic throughout 2015, then the future for Super Black should be bright, to say the least.
For more information on Super Black Racing, visit www.sbr.co.nz.