With a break between Winton and Darwin, supercars.com is analysing the drivers’ results and performances in this first part of the season. The racing is the closest in history, with nine different winners in 11 races.
Aaren Russell, Erebus Motorsport
Engineer: Mathew Nilsson (from Walkinshaw Racing)
Average qualifying position: 25.3 Average finishing position: 23.3 Championship position: 26 Points to leader: 786 Wins: 0 Pole positions: 0
Best result: 17th, Tasmania Sunday
Yes, he was helped by the oil spill, but cracking the top 20 at his second championship event is nothing to scoff at when the field is so tight.
Low point: Qualifying, Tasmania Saturday
Russell was 2.26sec off the pace in the session, and one second away from 25th placed racer Andre Heimgartner, starting from last place on the grid.
For: The rookie showed a certain tenacity fighting Mark Winterbottom in Perth at the end of the race when he was on fresher tyres. While he copped plenty of criticism from the fans – particularly when ‘Frosty’ said he thought the race was lost – Russell wouldn’t back down on the move, saying he’s racing for his career. He has been described as incredibly focused on success.
Against: The closeness of the competition means the numbers are harsh for Russell – qualifying just 1sec off the pace leaves him dead last on the grid.
The team: Erebus is basically a whole new operation this year. Ex-Walkinshaw Commodores are being developed on their own terms with a limited budget and plenty of new, young faces are behind the scenes at its Melbourne base. A test day is just around the corner and teammate David Reynolds’ result at Winton was positive, though it is understood Russell does not have the equivalent equipment. Russell says the guidance he is getting from respected engineer Nilsson is valuable.
Rating: D+ Rough road for rookie racer as he finds his feet in closest ever season.