Have you ever seen a darker sky than the one that prevailed at Winton yesterday during the latter part of Sunday’s 11th race of the V8 Supercars Championship? It looked like the predictions of Saturday nite’s apocalyptic end of the world had all come true, albeit a good dozen or so hours late.
The anticipated cloudburst arrived within minutes of race end and I wonder how different the result might have been had the forecast rain arrived at any point prior to then. Jason Bright’s strategy – and that of his engineering group and team – was as good as any you will see, and Brighty certainly drove one of the best races of his career. He must have passed an accumulated total of in excess of 30 cars during the 67-lap race, but had rain fallen as expected, it would have ruined his chances of exploiting the advantage he’d created by running so far into the race.
Thankfully it didn’t, because to watch Bright carve his way past so many big names, like he was driving a car from a different category … no, make that planet, was possibly the biggest performance disparity we have ever witnessed under equal conditions. Only Bright, Fabian Coulthard and Steve Owen adopted this approach and considering ‘Fabs’ was quite close to Bright’s bumper prior to his last – and very slow – pit stop, he can consider himself unlucky not to have been higher up than his race ending position of fifth.
It’s fair to say that had rain materialised at any point after Bright, Coulthard and Owen’s stop, and prior to Bright hitting the lead, that the end result could have been very different. Jamie Whincup and Garth Tander looked perfectly poised to battle it out at the front and the Fujitsu Racing GRM twins of Michael Caruso and Lee Holdsworth were also praying for rain. Then again, we may not have had any result at all – such was the downpour that brought the meeting to a premature end before the Formula 3 field could even leave the form up area.
So much has been written and said about Jason Richards in recent times and it’s fair to say that any sports person watching his closest competitors from the sidelines is doing it tough, but it didn’t show one little bit last weekend. Every time ‘JR’ was shown on screen he was beaming, and rightly so, because ‘Brighty’ was carrying his number and his sponsor into a stratospheric position, and in doing so, he was giving the hard working BJR team an almost unbelievable win on what was as good as home soil … and the entire team were lapping it up.
Which is also exactly what Jason Richards was doing post race, where he was drenched in champagne by all three podium position finishers – and the moment was captured brilliantly. I don’t know whose idea it was to send JR up onto the podium, but it was yet another moving moment in what is rapidly turning out to be a fairytale year for so many. Sure, the irrepressible Whincup has won just under 50 percent of this year’s races, but there have been so many good news stories and popular wins in the opening five events and we have so much more to come.
Bright, having scored two wins in as many meetings, now sits second on the accrued wins list for the year behind Whincup and these soft tyre races just keep getting better and better as teams understand more about how to manage them best.
Eleven races down and 16 to go and Holden have now amassed 10 wins to Ford’s paltry one, but to go back to my first paragraph and my comment on the darkest of darkening skies, it’s quite possible we might find an even gloomier skyscape somewhere near Campbellfield, Victoria.
In fact, right now, FPR may well be creating its very own weather pattern on the back of what must surely have been the team’s worst weekend in many a year – Mark Winterbottom’s Sunday pole notwithstanding. Fingers crossed they will soon be part of the front-running action because the category – loyal Ford fans too – need them to be part of the stellar year we are currently witnessing.
See below for Jason Bright’s thoughts on his win.