John Bowe’s mid-season report card – Part 1

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 22/07/2017
  • By John Bowe

Assessing the Supercars field at the midway point of the 2017 season is no easy task.

It’s such a strong grid of drivers and there are so many elements that go into achieving results.

But I’ve watched the category very closely this year, as I always do, and have found it as fascinating as ever.

Clearly DJR Team Penske has taken a massive leap forward and Triple Eight, to its credit, has responded.

The new tyre has been a big challenge for all teams, which is a great thing. If I had my way they’d change the tyre every year to shake things up!

Here’s the first in my four-part overview of how the Supercars field has fared over the first half of the season.

Nick Percat – Brad Jones Racing

Nick Percat of Brad Jones Racing during the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Test Day,  at the Sydney Motorsport Park, Sydney, New South Wales, February 21, 2017.

Qual average: 13.9
Best race result: 3rd
Championship position: 15th

Nick has had a tough start to his time at BJR. I really rate him but he’s had a difficult start to the year, as has the team.

But I see encouraging signs there and I think the best thing is that alongside Tim Slade they’ve got two podium-capable drivers.

I think the team though has been left behind a little bit with this tyre era, just slightly. All that damage early on didn’t help them and whether they can catch up remains to be seen.

Tim Slade – Freightliner Racing (BJR)

On track

Qual average: 12.7
Best race result: 5th
Championship position: 14th

It’s no surprise to me at all that Tim has been able to match Nick this year. He’s doing a very good job, as he has for a number of years.

But again with Tim, he’s in the hands of his car development and his engineer and right now they don’t have the outright speed.

BJR has some very clever people there, but they’ve slipped in the pecking order, there’s no doubt about it.

Tim Blanchard – CoolDrive Racing (BJR)

On track

Qual average: 20.7
Best race result: 12th
Championship position: 22nd

I find it difficult to quantify how a bloke can be so good in Formula Ford against very, very good guys but can’t quite put it together in a Supercar.

He has some good days but generally his pace doesn’t match his team-mates and he’s got two very good ones in Tim and Nick.

Generally the top open-wheel drivers can turn their hand to touring cars, but I think honestly he’s capable of more than we’ve seen from him.

Alex Rullo – Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport

Alex Rullo Winton 2016

Qual average: 25.2
Best race result: 21st
Championship position: 25th

I’ve been impressed with what Alex has done this year. He’s had a few team-mates up against him and none of them have blown him away.

There was obviously a lot of chat about whether he should be on the grid but I haven’t seen him make mistakes that any rookie wouldn’t do, no matter what their age.

The reality for him is that he’s in aging equipment at LDM and the team doesn’t operate on the same level as the others, but you’ve got to admire Lucas for sticking at it.

Scott Pye – Mobil 1 HSV Racing

On track

Qual average: 17.0
Best race result: 8th
Championship position: 18th

I was quite close to Scott when he raced at DJR and I’m convinced that he’s a very good driver if given the right car.

Clearly he hasn’t got that at the moment and it’s very hard from the outside to say why, but it’s unfortunate for Scott to see where they’re at compared to where he came from (Penske).

If you look at the stats he’s held up well against Courtney, but when you’re outside the top 10 trying things to move forward you can’t read much into that.

James Courtney – Mobil 1 HSV Racing

James Courtney Race 10 2017 Winton SuperSprint

Qual average: 17.0
Best race result: 3rd
Championship position: 20th

I don’t know James well personally, but he’s clearly a very, very good driver who is in a very difficult situation.

There’s been times this year where he’s looked like he’s had the weight of the world on his shoulders. If the car is no good you can’t simply drag it to the front no matter who you are.

But the drivers play a big role in the development direction and he needs to be part of the solution, as well as Ryan (Walkinshaw), who is the owner but not based with the team, which is difficult.

Check back to Supercars.com tomorrow for Part 2 of John Bowe's mid-season Supercars report card.

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