As Nissan driver Dale Wood celebrates his 50th V8 Supercars championship round this weekend, he’ll be keeping a close eye on the development category that helped get him where he is today.
Wood predicts the junior racers will push experienced hand and category benchmark Paul Dumbrell in what will be a hard-fought season. The series visits a different range of circuits this year, including Phillip Island this weekend.
After just one round in 2016, 2013 Dunlop Series champion Wood has tipped 2014 Mike Kable Young Gun award winner Todd Hazelwood to be a standout this season.
“I don’t know him that well but from the outside looking in, he obviously works extremely hard,” Wood told v8supercars.com after naming Hazelwood his pick.
“We all know how hard he works away from the track and he’s got a lot of raw speed as well.
“He’s in a good car – so I think he’ll be one in particular.”
Two-time series champion and 2012 Bathurst winner Paul Dumbrell provides a good measure for the young drivers, and while he will be in the mix, Wood believes the young guns could get the better of him this year.
Dumbrell was beaten to the title in 2015 by Cameron Waters, who now drives for Prodrive Racing Australia in the main series – so there’s big incentive for Dunlop Series drivers to get noticed.
“I reckon there’s going to be a good group of younger blokes that will really start knocking at him,” Wood said of Dumbrell.
“I really like what Jimmy Golding does too, I think he’s a pretty exciting bloke to watch at the moment and one who is going to be able to do the job.
“There’s plenty there that are going to be able to effectively do the job come the time, but one in particular is going to be Todd Hazelwood.
“He’s going to be there all year and I think he’s going to be one we might see work pretty hard at that championship at the end of the year.”
After one round, Garry Jacobson leads the points, with Jack Le Brocq second and Golding third. Hazelwood sits ninth and 120 points behind the leader.
Hazelwood bagged his first ARMOR ALL Pole Position at the Clipsal 500, and finished fourth on Sunday, but a tyre failure in the first race meant finishing 22nd and losing a bag of points.
Both Adelaide races were chaotic, and Wood said it was typical of Dunlop Series drivers to make split-second decisions that regularly end in a mistake.
“It’s exactly what you often see in Adelaide for round one,” Wood said.
“I’ve done the development series a few times and you see guys … who have been possible champions in the categories they’ve come from. Getting into the development series, they’ve got the speed, they’re going to do a great job, and they want to flex their muscles. They’re knocking on the door to getting into the main game.
“Unfortunately with that you’re going to see some desperate moves, some crazy passes. Some people are going to benefit from that and a lot of people aren’t going to benefit from it … you’re going to see some interesting viewing.”
Nissan driver Dale Wood celebrates his 50th V8 Supercars Championship round this weekend at Phillip Island, at the circuit where he debuted in the category back in 2008 as an enduro driver.
The Dunlop Series hits the track at 12.45pm local for practice today.