Phillip Island: The most crucial round of 2013 so far?

Forget the Melbourne Cup – the countdown has begun to arguably the most definitive round of the 2013 V8 Supercars championship.

It’s J-Dub v Lowndesy, Davison v the pair of ’em and Frosty v absolutely every man and his dog, cat and squirrel. And it’s going to be on for young and old. While admittedly Lowndesy may be the elder statesman of the bunch, the three-time series champion and all-round legend enters the Victorian circuit with the championship lead from J-Dub, Frosty and Davo respectively.  He’s a man with serious intent. And if Phillip Island were a Cluedo mystery and all four drivers suspects, then Crackers would shape as the man most likely. Him or Colonel Mustard in the Library…

Anywho, it’s been almost 14 years since the Red Bull Racing Australia driver last tasted championship success – no thanks to Rick Kelly, but we’ll get to that at a later date – and as we move ever closer to Phillip Island on November 22 Cappy is hungrier than ever.

But forget not his team-mate and reigning champion J-Dub. That’s right, don’t let the fancy mullet and ritzy overalls fool you – the 30-year-old is a man desperate to equal Mark Skaife’s championship record and, trailing his team-mate by just six points, he again shapes as the biggest rival to Lowndesy.

But if the FPR duo of Davison and Winterbottom have anything to do with it, they’ll just as soon see either Red Bull car into the dirt. FPR have form at Phillip Island and on the back of Bathurst success deserve to be in contention for their first ever driver championship. But like the Triple Eight garage, each FPR driver’s biggest rival is from within his own garage – and ours…

Strategy and reliability will play major parts in Phillip Island results and with 300 points on offer it’s more than likely as many as two drivers could bow out of the battle by November 24. For Phillip Island has been a cruel mistress to all four drivers in the past, and with a complete re-surfacing and new cars, what it holds is anyone’s guess. And if the results on the streets of the Gold Coast last month are anything to go by, then even the most ardent of betting men will be left scratching their receding hairlines come three weeks’ time.

What we do know is that lap records will almost certainly be broken – and hearts, too. For while the championship battle is a four-car race, there are 24 other drivers on the grid who care less about the how the championship unfolds than the long-term fate of One Direction. Another FPR driver in Dave Reynolds shapes as a major points hog on the back of his Gold Coast success, while the likes of BJR pair Jason Bright and Fabian Coulthard won’t be far from the front. Then there are the reinvigorated James Courtney, who showed serious pace at the last few sprint rounds before his slightly hairy enduro campaign, and youngsters Scott McLaughlin and Chaz Mostert looking to return to the winner’s podium.

Stay tuned at the next few weeks as we countdown the biggest moments from Phillip Island of the past 10 years. And let’s just say, Lowndesy and J-Dub have been at the heart of most of them…