Craig’s Corner: Could silly season affect 2023 title fight?

17 Aug
Lowndesy's exclusive Supercars.com column for The Bend
4 mins by James Pavey

This is the eighth exclusive Supercars.com column by Supercars Hall of Famer Craig Lowndes. Seven-time Bathurst winner Lowndes will preview each round of the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship from his own perspective, continuing with this weekend’s OTR SuperSprint.

The final sprint round of 2023 is upon us, and The Bend Motorsport Park is an awesome setting for this year’s championship to hit new heights.

It’s the last chance for drivers to score points in short races before the pressure rises with big-points races ending the season.

Driver and team silly season is in full swing, as it always is this time of year, and plenty has caught my attention since we left Sydney. The big news last week was Will Brown leaving Erebus Motorsport, and given he’s fighting for a championship, it’s going to be interesting to see how the team responds.

Will is off to Triple Eight next season, replacing Shane van Gisbergen. It’s such an intriguing dynamic given they’ve both still got a championship to win, and there’s a chance Will could take the champion’s #1 to his new team, much like James Courtney did when he joined the Holden Racing Team in 2010 when he won the title with Dick Johnson Racing.

Brodie Kostecki is leading the championship, and Will is second —but Shane and Broc Feeney are closing in all the time. We’ve seen it happen in the past that, when a driver is moving on, the team may lean towards the other side of the garage.

Given it’s the pointy end of the championship, teams may focus on the lead driver in the standings to maximise points. In 2023, however, we are in a unique situation where four drivers across two teams are all going head-to-head for the championship. It’s going to play a massive role through the enduros, with Sandown and Bathurst worth 300 points each for victory. Stumble in either race, and there could be a massive swing in the championship.

Therein lies the importance of this weekend’s round at Tailem Bend. It’s really important for all four drivers to maximise points this weekend and try to create a gap as they fight to be the leader at their respective teams.


It’s a great opportunity for the likes of Chaz Mostert, Andre Heimgartner, Cam Waters and even the DJR guys to stamp their authority at the front and try to steal some wins. They have less to lose right now, and there’s a great chance for any of them to score big points and be a key player in the enduros.

These races are only 20 laps, but it’s a long lap — in saying that, I have no doubt teams will be aggressive on set-up to maximise grip. I love this circuit — it’s a real driver’s circuit, and a very difficult one to get right.

It’s a hugely challenging circuit for drivers and teams for many reasons. It has elevation changes, blind corners, fast corners, downhill braking, long straights — it really has it all. Add in the Gen3 challenge, and it’s going to be a wild ride. These cars have less drag, so they’ll be quick down the long pit straight — so keep an eye out for slipstreaming, in qualifying and races.

It’s a low deg circuit, so it’s critical to generate tyre temperature — particularly in qualifying, so you can arrive at the big Turn 1 braking zone with confidence. Expect drivers to be aggressive off the line and down to Turn 1. Brodie and Shane have been aggressive — they were even aggressive in the NASCAR race last weekend — so watch for drivers to make big moves.

The risk with being aggressive is enhanced given the nature of the first few corners. It gets very congested through Turns 1, 2 and 3, and we’ve seen plenty of biff and barge through the fast Turn 5 and into the big braking zone Turn 6. Watch for drivers to flex their muscles on lap 1 and try and get track position.

I’d also like to reflect on a special milestone for the championship — this weekend, we celebrate 600 ATCC/Supercars rounds! I’ve been fortunate to be there for exactly half of them, and it’s been awesome to see the growth of the category, and where we’ve been and raced.

The beating heart of our championship is in Australia, but over the years, we’ve been the New Zealand, the Middle East and even Texas. It’s about showcasing what we’re about what and bringing new fans to the sport, and what footprint we’ve left in different countries all around the world.

I can’t wait for this weekend’s racing — then after The Bend, we get ready for the enduros. Until then, here’s to the next 600!

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