Jamie Whincup dominated again in 2012.
Photo: Getty Images
BURNING QUESTIONS FOR 2013: Will the Car of the Future regulations throw up new contenders or will it be another Triple Eight benefit?
Big changes are afoot for next year's V8 Supercar championship. Nissan and Mercedes will enter the fray and new regulations with more 'control' parts will make it easier for teams to compete on a more level footing, but will any of this be enough to stop Jamie Whincup grabbing a record-equalling fifth title?
Whincup has won four of the last five titles, something that hasn't been achieved since Ian Geoghegan won four straight titles from 1966-69. If Whincup does come away with the title this year, he will match Geoghegan's achievement of winning five titles in six years.
The Car of the Future regulations are designed to create a more level playing field, and they couldn't have come at a more crucial time. Triple Eight has dominated the past two seasons with Whincup winning from teammate Craig Lowndes on both occasions. During the 2012 season, only two teams managed race wins, Triple Eight and Ford Performance Racing, with something needing to be done to ensure the competition didn't become dominated by the most well-funded and resourced team in the field.
But will the new rules change anything?
The use of control parts is meant to cut the cost of running a car in the championship to $250,000, leaving all teams able to afford to compete at the same level, with little scope for spending more on design and development. What we have seen so far before the start of the season is the well-funded teams have been the first to get their cars constructed and out on the track in time for testing, leaving the others behind the eight-ball before a wheel has been turned in anger.
Mercedes and Nissan present a different proposition altogether. The fact that Kelly Racing and Stone Brothers Racing/Erebus Motorsport are the sole teams representing their new brands means they will automatically jump up to being just as well funded as Triple Eight and Ford Performance Racing. The down side is that they will have to come to terms with an entirely new set of problems, being the manufacturers themselves and the design components required.
Fortunately Kelly Racing has a four-car team, meaning they will be able to quickly put together data on what works and doesn't work on the new Nissan Altima. Whether they are able to get things up to a level where they are competing for race wins in the first season is another thing entirely, especially considering how far down the pack they were in 2012.
SBR, on the other hand, is coming from a much stronger position after finishing third in the championship. They will only have a three-car team, which should still be good enough to gather some strong testing data, but the loss of the team's best driver Shane Van Gisbergen will hamper their ability to match it with Whincup.
It may be that this year, Whincup's biggest threat will again come from teammate Lowndes. But the last two years have shown even Lowndes can't get the better of him. If anything, Whincup stretched the gap between himself and Lowndes in 2012 and we reckon that means he'll romp to title No.5 in 2013.
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