Mid-seasons are good for four things – sales, tax returns, report cards and launching your championship assault.
As we officially move into the second half of the V8 Supercars season Red Bull Racing Australia fits into the latter – though the RBRA crew have been taking extensive advantage of the former two. Check out Dutto’s new muscle-Ts…
One look at the wins and podiums columns in 2014 and Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes are far and away the quickest drivers again this year. In fact, taking only wins, podiums and front-row starts into account and it’s daylight, moonlight and a strobe light in between the VF Commodore drivers and their rivals.
Sitting second in the championship, J-Dub has a series high of seven race wins, four podiums, six pole positions and an additional five front-row starts from 22 races. That means he’s started on the front row of the grid for a whopping half of all races this season.
And Lowndesy isn’t far off. The No.888 pilot has three wins to his name, six podium positions and nine front-row starts, including four pole positions – his best qualifying record in recent history.
The only man separating the pair in the win stakes is series leader Mark Winterbottom, who has four wins under his belt. He sits equal with Lowndesy on podium finishes but has struggled to qualify on the front row of the grid only three times – with not a single pole positions to his name.
Those stats alone show the big three, but especially the Red Bull Racing Australia Holdens, remain the usual suspects.
What Frosty, who holds a narrow 96-point buffer over reigning champ J-Dub in the championship, has had over the Red Bull duo however is consistency.
Not unlike Rick Kelly’s infamous 2006 championship victory, the FPR driver has steered clear of controversy to keep his nose clean and accumulate points almost under the radar. His average qualifying position this season has been eighth, but his average finishing position is fifth. That’s a three-car gain per race on average, while Whincup and Lowndes’ have lost valuable spots, qualifying on average fifth and sixth respectively, only to finish sixth and eighth. Then there’s the fact that all four of his wins have come on Sundays, where double points are on offer. But like the Brazilian football side found out, good fortune and rival errors can only take you so far – straight into the waiting jaws of defeat.
Be it tyre wear, mechanical issues, pit lane infringements, driver error or plain old “racing” truisms, controversy has been a cruel mistress to the Red Bull garage this year.
So to be leading the teams’ championship and outright second and sixth respectively in the drivers’ championship for J-Dub and Lowndesy is a feat unto itself. Were it not for a horror weekend in Townsville for Lowndesy, the Red Bull duo could be second and third in the championship.
The good news is, the outright speed displayed in qualifying by both cars and J-Dub’s success – winning two of three races – is proof the best is yet to come for the team in 2014.
J-Dub’s clawed his way into contention to claim a V8 Supercars/ATCC record sixth championship win. And as for Lowndesy, there’s no doubt he can return to the pointy end of the ladder just as quickly as he left it, such is the closeness of the 2014 season. J-Dub’s already done it this season so watch for Lowndsey to follow suit.
And with the next event on the calendar to take place on home blacktop at Queensland Raceway, make no mistake, these Red Bulls are ready to charge on.