Welcome back to Race Chaser Online’s 2014 V8 Supercars Championship Preview! We finish off our look at all of the teams competing for the 2014 season by running with the defending champions, Red Bull Racing Australia. Remember to check back later today for our preview of the season opening round, the Clipsal 500, and keep checking Race Chaser Online throughout the season for all the news from Australia’s top series of motorsport!
Red Bull Racing Australia
#1 – Jamie Whincup, Red Bull Holden Commodore VF
#888 – Craig Lowndes, Red Bull Holden Commodore VF
2013 TEAM POINTS FINISH: 1st
2013 HIGHLIGHT MOMENTS: Winning the drivers’ and teams’ championship, finishing 1-2 in the drivers’ championship, finishing first and second six times (out of a possible eight) at the Circuit of the Americas (while never finishing outside of fifth all weekend), Jamie Whincup finally winning at Sandown, and Craig Lowndes becoming the all-time winningest driver in V8 Supercars history
They were not quite as dominant in 2013 as they were in 2012, but Red Bull Racing Australia were still dominant throughout the whole of the V8 Supercars season.
The numbers speak for themselves: 16 victories, 35 podiums, 45 top five finishes, and the Teams’ and Drivers’ Championships for the third year in a row (the latter via Jamie Whincup, who is now a five-time V8 Supercars Champion). RBRA led the V8 Supercars Championship in all of those stats and were without question the best team in the series last year.
Jamie Whincup won his third championship in a row and fifth in the last six years (with James Courtney’s 2010 title the only one dividing Whincup’s run) and finally won the Sandown 500 (the lead-up race to Bathurst) for the first time in his career, while Lowndes finished second in the driver’s championship. Craig was somewhat disappointed to finish runner-up in the points, as he was in the hunt for the title up until the penultimate race of the season in Sydney (and in a virtual dead heat coming in to the final race meeting of the season). However, he did make history by breaking Mark Skaife’s record of 90 V8SC victories with his win in the opener at Barbagallo Raceway, becoming the winningest driver in the history of V8 Supercars.
One would think that all of this would be enough for RBRA to consider 2013 a success, but the truth is that it was a down year by their standards. In 2012, RBRA were even more dominant, claiming 19 wins, 39 podiums, and 49 top five finishes between their two drivers. Whincup, in particular, retired twice more in 2013 than he did in 2013, and recorded a win less than he did the season before. With Craig managing to finish every race (leading the series in that category), the drivers’ points were far closer in 2013 than they were in 2012 (when Whincup ran away with the title and was simply untouchable).
If anything, the most likely explanation for the dip in performance from RBRA was the Car of the Future. The COTF was the V8SC equivalent of NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow, and focused around building a safer and cheaper common chassis upon which all teams could build their respective bodies (and individualize their cars according to the manufacturer that they ran). The primary goals of the multi-year project to lower the cost of V8 Supercars racing and bring more parity to the competition.
Last year was the debut season for the Car of the Future, and it helped the parity department immensely, as the series saw a record nine teams go to the top step of the podium. In the end, it may not have been a question of RBRA slipping so much as it was the rest of the V8SC catching up to RBRA (to a degree). However, RBRA were still the best team a season ago, even if the rest of the field was better than they were in seasons past.
For 2014, there is a small but significant change in the RBRA camp. Jamie Whincup will be without the engineer (the NASCAR equivalent of a crew chief) of his five championship runs, Mark Dutton, as Dutton was promoted to team manager at RBRA. In his place will come David Cauchi who returns to RBRA after engineering Dean Fiore’s car for Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport a season ago. When a team is as strong as RBRA is, engineer changes usually do not affect the team in a negative way. However, if Whincup and Cauchi fail to “click”, then Whincup may actually be vulnerable to losing a title defense for the first time since 2010.
On the other hand, Lowndes’ 2013 points total was his closest to Whincup’s since 2011. Even at the age of 39, Lowndes is one of the series’ best drivers, and fans should expect nothing less but a continued model of consistency from the most popular driver in the Championship. Expect to see Craig’s trademark smile on the podium many times this season, along with many instances of him wanting to greet his children and “say hi to Levi and Chilli at home!”
As the defending champions, RBRA has everything to lose. But in the past few seasons, it has been RBRA asking the rest of the series who will challenge them for the title, and there have been no answers from their competitors. Make no mistake: RBRA will not lose the title on their own — if any of the other teams in the V8SC want to win it, then they will have to beat RBRA head-to-head.
If any team in the V8 Supercars Championship has made enough gains in the offseason to challenge RBRA for the title (namely FPR), then we may see a titanic fight at the top. Otherwise, it will be the Red Bull Holden Commodores dominating the series once again, and the team’s fourth consecutive championship will follow close behind.
For more information on Red Bull Racing Australia, visit http://redbullracingaustralia.com/.