With Ipswich just around the corner the mid-point in the V8 Supercar the season is upon us, and it’s time for those nasty half-yearly report cards!
The racing has a spectacle has been solid, if not spectacular.
David Reynolds and Tim Slade have emerged as stars of the future, while we could be watching one of Holden’s greats go around for the final time, in Greg Murphy.
Team Vodafone is still the team to beat, but Ford Performance Racing has finally put itself in a position to claim the Holy Grail after so many years of disappointment.
But perhaps more importantly, we’ll be guaranteed a fight to the death between Ford and Holden in the final year of the two-make series.
This is how I see it.
Team Vodafone A-
Upstaged by Ford Performance Racing in the early stages of the season, V8 Supercars’ gun team has hit back, and hit back hard.
If Jamie Whincup’s perfect weekend in Townsville is anything to go by, Team Vodafone could romp away with the title in the second-half of the season.
The team has wrestled back momentum thanks to clean-sweeps at Hidden Valley and Darwin, and the killer edge is back after earlier admitting they were playing catch-up to FPR.
But the reality is there is barely a flip of the coin between the two teams.
Of the 15 races so far this season, Triple Eight and FPR between them have won every single event.
Whincup remains the class of the field, and is probably now the favourite for the title.
Although he’s won fewer races than Davison to this point, Whincup has barely had a dud race and he’s almost immune to making mistakes.
For Lowndes, the championship is done for another year but there’s no doubting he’ll win a few more races along the way.
Lowndes and Warren Luff look a real chance at Bathurst.
Ford Performance Racing A+
FPR get my highest mid-season grade, deserving of the honour because of the drastic improvement from last season.
I don’t reckon even the bluest of Ford fans would have expected the team to do so well, and more importantly be so consistent.
Will Davison, with his six wins this season, is probably tied with Whincup for ‘Best on Ground’.
Apart from unfortunate crashes at Barbagallo and Phillip Island, Davison should to be out in front right now.
The speed is definitely there to launch an assault, but perhaps most impressive has been Davison’s ability to keep scoring strong finishes, even when the car isn’t performing at its best.
Those Top-5 results on the bad days are the ones that win titles.
His teammate Mark Winterbottom would be delighted with where he stands in the title race, considering the early disruption of a broken foot.
After so many failed campaigns, ‘Frosty’ is finally in with a shot at the crown.
He can’t miss this chance.
And then there’s David Reynolds who’s really impressed me with genuine speed in both qualifying and the races.
That maiden win will come before the season, and don’t be surprised if this bloke wins a few more in 2013.
The big question mark for this team is will they lose the title during the endurance races?
FPR historically has dropped the ball at the big events, but this year the Ford squad has never looked better equipped.
Holden Racing Team / Walkinshaw Racing C-
What has happened to the once mighty Holden Racing Team?
Nobody can seem to put their finger on it, and drastic improvement doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon.
In my eyes, Garth Tander is the most gifted driver in the field, and without him HRT would be even worse off than it is at the moment.
He could driver a wheelbarrow and still be competitive!
And then there’s James Courtney.
Is it the driving style of the Commodore that Courtney can’t get his head around?
Courtney looks a shadow of the driver that won the title in 2010, and his deflection from Ford to Holden can only be described as a disaster.
Russel Ingall continues to amaze me with his ability to remain competitive at his age, but it’s time now to start focusing on being an enduro driver.
The only hope for HRT is a repeat Bathurst victory.
Stone Brothers Racing B+
Stone Brothers Racing should be really pleased with a solid start to the year, but expect a big run home from the Ford squad.
I think we all anticipated Shane Van Gisbergen would take the next step this season, and he’s not far off becoming a genuine championship contender.
Lee Holdsworth has done a top job learning the Falcon, and seventh in the points is a good reward for a half season that was always going to be focused on development.
Look for him to start mixing it for wins from here-on-out.
Teammate Tim Slade, who’s just behind in eighth in the points, has been the real surprise of 2012.
Alongside David Reynolds, Slade looms as the next first-time winner.
But just like FPR, big question marks loom over SBR’s ability to perform at Sandown and Bathurst.
SBR will be desperate to repeat another failed endurance campaign.
Kelly Racing D
Trying to give Kelly Racing a score is difficult.
It’s like trying to grade the kid who’s changed schools during the semester.
2012 was always going to be a lost year with the team heading to Nissan next season, and it’s tough to judge how much development has actually gone into the Commodore.
Both Todd and Rick Kelly have done well in probably the most important year of their professional lives.
Speed has been OK, but luck has departed them regularly.
The jury is still out on Karl Reindler. Can he drive?
Of the blokes who have competed in every race, only David Wall, Alexander Premat, and James Moffatt sit below the West Australian.
He’ll need a big second-half to secure a ride next season.
Sadly, we’ve probably seen the end of Greg Murphy, but full marks to the team for making the most of a bad situation and giving David Russell and Jacques Villeneuve a go.
Dick Johnson Racing F
Just like the A-League, rapid expansion hasn’t been kind to Dick Johnson Racing.
It’s been a horror season for DJR but given the driver line-up, did we really expect them to be going that flash-hot anyway?
The end is near for team leader Steven Johnson, and the wear-and-tear of the business world has finally caught up.
Dean Fiore looks a reasonable driver, but I have my doubts over whether he’ll ever become a serious Top-10 contender.
James Moffatt has gone backwards badly, while Steve Owen was always going to take time getting used to new machinery following Paul Morris’ late decision to switch camps.
I honestly can’t see DJR moving up the grid much more.
A gun driver is needed to re-build the team around when Johnson finally gives full-time driving the flick.
A podium in the endurance races is probably the only realistic hope.
Brad Jones Racing B-
The Albury squad hasn’t quite recaptured the form of last season, but Brad Jones Racing deserves a big pat on the back for a solid opening half.
It takes great people to bring a group together in the wake of a tragedy, and BJR has conducted itself wonderfully following Jason Richards’ death.
Credit to them, and the results are now starting to show.
Fabian Coulthard has found his mojo again, and could be a real danger in the run home.
Jason Bright can never be countered out despite a difficult run of form, while David Wall is still learning his way in V8s.
I always like this team as an enduro roughie, and it should be no different this year.
Garry Rogers Motorsport D
With Lee Holdsworth gone, this was the year for Michael Caruso to step up.
I reckon Caruso would be really disappointed with 16th in the title chase, with fourth place at Hidden Valley the lone highlight.
The pit lane chatter has Caruso grabbing a factory drive with either Ford or Nissan next year, and I think it’s time for him to make a move to a bigger squad.
I’ve got no doubt he’ll perform, given the right machinery.
Frenchman Alexandre Premat on the whole has done a good job in his maiden V8 Supercar season.
There have been a few bumps along the way, but considering the language barrier and the steep learning curve, Premat has shown enough to suggest he could become a regular Top-15 runner next season.
Tekno Autosports C+
It’s been a tough season for Tekno Autosports, on-and-off the track.
Changing manufactures and expanding to two cars was always going to be a massive challenge for Jonathon Webb’s team.
Add to that the continuing sponsorship dramas.
In the wake of it all, I reckon this mob is doing a real good job.
The Tekno cars looked particularly good at Phillip Island and Townsville, and I’ve been surprised with the glimpses of speed Michael Patrizi has shown.
I rate Webb highly and it’s pleasing to see the team at least showing some of promise during a really difficult patch.
Tony D’Alberto Racing C-
One car teams will always struggle.
After overcoming early sponsorship pain Tony D’Alberto has shown brief signs of speed aboard his Falcon, with a season-high 8th finish at Hamilton the pick of his season.
Top-10 finishes for this team are a massive result, and anything more than that is like winning gold at London.
Lucas Dumbrell Racing C-
I honestly expected Taz Douglas to regularly finish at the bottom of the timesheets, but Lucas Dumbrell’s man has far exceeded my expectations.
Qualifying 8th at Symmons Plains was a massive achievement for a team that has barely kept its head above water since the beginning.
After plenty of personal battles it’s nice to see Douglas at least mixing it up in the mid-pack.
Special mention to that terrific iSelect paint job too! What a ripper!