V8SC: 2014 Preview – Holden Racing Team

James Pike Featured, International, Supercars 0 Comments

Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2014 V8 Supercars Championship Preview! Our second preview of the day looks at the factory outfit for Holden, the Holden Racing Team.

Holden Racing Team

DRIVERS:

#2 – Garth Tander, SP Tools/ Mobil 1 Holden Commodore VF

#22 – James Courtney, SP Tools/ Mobil 1 Holden Commodore VF

2013 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 5th

2013 HIGHLIGHT MOMENT: The 1-2 finish for Tander and Courtney in the second race at Townsville

 

Another season for the Holden Racing Team, and another finish behind FPR and Red Bull Racing in the standings. For them, it was another disappointment.

As the factory team for the most successful brand in the history of V8 Supercars, the expectation is to be running up front all the time and competing for championships. However, expectations have not matched reality in the past four years- since they won the Team Championship in 2009, HRT has finished seventh, fourth, fourth and fifth in the standings. For most teams, this would be a sound run of form, but when the top step of the podium is where you aim to be, results like those are not acceptable.

That is not to say that all of their 2013 was a disappointment, however. Garth Tander scored five podium finishes, including victories in the opening race at Phillip Island and the finale in Townsville. Teammate James Courtney finished in the top three even more than Tander did, with seven podiums and a win in the finale at Winton marking the high points in 2013. That Courtney collected more podiums than Tander is somewhat of a shock, given that Tander is supposedly the “number one” driver at HRT and that Courtney retired from six races and missed the final weekend of the season.

For all his strong efforts, it will be the end to Courtney’s 2013 that fans remember the most. His season was cut short in a horrific crash at Phillip Island. Courtney was rounding a slow corner when Garry Rogers Motorsport’s Alexander Premat T-Boned Courtney’s car at full speed. The resulting impact lifted all four of Courtney’s tires clean off of the ground and left him with a broken leg that kept him from racing the final weekend at Sydney. To some degree, the crash put Courtney out of his own misery, as it was the last of four consecutive retirements that also put him out of the Bathurst 1000 and both of the races at Surfers Paradise.

Tander, on the other hand, was the more consistent of the two drivers, but never was as consistent as he would have liked. He did claim seven top fives beyond his five podium finishes, but the 2007 V8 Supercars Champion will always be expecting more than that out of his team.

For 2014, there are no new drivers, cars, or crew members coming in to the Holden Racing Team, but there are some sponsor changes. Out goes the Toll Group, who ended their primary sponsorship of HRT after a five year run. Coming in to replace them is SP Tools, who jumps ship from Erebus Motorsport to become the new primary sponsor on the pair of HRT Commodores. Mobil 1 also increased their support from a season ago, becoming the bonnet (hood in the U.S.) sponsor for HRT.

Will the new and improved sponsorship give HRT the extra amount of money needed to compete with the likes of Red Bull Racing Australia and Ford Performance Racing in 2014? That is the question that HRT will have to answer this season. While that answer will be undecided for a while, there are some other questions that should be more clear-cut. For starters, James Courtney should not repeat his miserable end to 2013 this time around. His four retirements came from on-track incidents in which he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — they were not a reflection of HRT’s capabilities so much as they were simply an unfortunate and severe string of bad luck. Having rehabilitated throughout the offseason to get back to racing after his broken leg, Courtney should be as excited to go racing again as Tony Stewart was when he got to Daytona (coincidentally, the season opening event in Adelaide will be Courtney’s first time behind the wheel of the V8 Supercar since his crash at Phillip Island, much like Stewart’s first time back in his #14 was during the practices for the Sprint Unlimited).

Courtney’s 2014, then, should be an improvement on last year almost by default. The extra races should see him improve on his 11th-place finish in the driver’s standings. Yet whether or not he and Tander make the gains to the top of the V8 Supercars Championship like they want to is entirely dependent on whether or not HRT will be able to find more speed in their cars than they have the past four seasons. To be on the level of RBRA and FPR, the Holden Racing Team will have to find a significant increase in the speed of their cars.

While it is always possible that HRT could have found enough speed in the offseason to join those two teams at the top of the series, the gap between HRT and those teams was massive a season ago. Conventional wisdom would say that the difference is too much to be made up in a single offseason, and that HRT will find themselves finishing fourth in the Team Championship. But then again, this is the V8 Supercars Championship, and stranger things have happened before.

For more information on the Holden Racing Team, visit their website at http://www.hrt.com.au/.

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