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Red Bull resurgence shines spotlight on Owen

Wednesday 25th November, 2015 - 5:53pm

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Notoriously cool customer Steve Owen

Notoriously cool customer Steve Owen

The performance of substitute driver Steve Owen at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 appears set to decide the growing teams’ championship fight between Prodrive and arch rivals Red Bull.

Owen was recently confirmed as a one-off starter aboard the #6 Pepsi Max Ford for Sydney in order to allow Cameron Waters to focus on his Dunlop Series duties.

Prodrive’s Pepsi Max Crew outfit heads to Sydney with a relatively slender 71 point advantage over Red Bull, with 576 points remaining available to two-car teams at the punishing street circuit.

The Ford team had led by as much as 844 points after the Sandown 500, but a combination of Chaz Mostert’s Bathurst accident and Red Bull’s upturn in performance has resulted in a dramatic swing.

Although one of the most highly rated co-drivers thanks largely to his experience, Owen has not competed in a single-driver V8 Supercars Championship event since 2012.

Dunlop Series outings have also been a rarity in recent times, meaning that Owen has qualified a V8 Supercar just once in the best part of two years.

Prodrive team principal Tim Edwards told Speedcafe.com that his crew is realistic about how Owen will perform in the season finale.

“As far as we’re concerned there’s no pressure on Steve at all,” said Edwards.

“He’s just got to do the best job he can and we’ll see what happens.

“You’ve got to be realistic. You can’t just pop drivers in for one or two races and expect them to perform at the same level as the guys who are in the cars all the time.”

While Waters was the number one pick to replace Mostert for Pukekohe and Phillip Island, Edwards insists it would have been too much to ask the youngster to perform double duties in Sydney.

“It’s important to us to win the Dunlop Series and I’d hate to give that up when he’s so close and has a good points lead,” explained Edwards.

“In a perfect world we’ll win both championships, but expecting him to do both is asking too much of somebody.

‘You can get away with it at Bathurst and places like that because you’re in the co-driver role, supporting the main driver.

“You’re not thinking ‘do I put this spring in the car’, it’s a very different approach. It’s essentially just doing laps when you’re told.

“Setting up two cars in Sydney your head would be spinning.”

While Prodrive had been the dominant force until Mostert’s accident, Red Bull’s Jamie Whincup says the Holden outfit will have no qualms about wrestling the title away from its wounded rival.

Triple Eight has won six teams’ titles in the last seven years, including the last five in succession, while Prodrive is yet to win one in 13 years of trying.

“The teams championship is who has done the best job over the whole year, not for the first half,” dead-panned Whincup when asked of the situation.

“Whoever gets the most points will have done the best job.”

As well as the prestige, the teams’ championship is essentially a battle for garage position next season.

Whoever wins will command the first four garages, with either Prodrive’s third and fourth entries or the new Craig Lowndes (Caltex)/Will Davison (Tekno) shared boom ready to move in behind the victors.

While being towards the front of the pit order is undoubtedly advantageous during practice and qualifying sessions and busy race situations, Whincup downplays any benefit from being in the very first slot.

“You don’t have anyone chopping in front of you but then you’ve got that cone and fire marshals and all sorts of other things to deal with (directly ahead),” he said.

“I don’t think it’s critical to be first, it’s more bragging rights than anything, but being up the front somewhere is certainly important.”

The V8 Supercars Manufacturers’ Award, which is solely based on race wins, is also delicately balance heading to Sydney, with Ford and Holden on 16 wins apiece.

Ford has not won the manufacturers title since 2009, which marked the last year before Triple Eight crossed the divide to join the Holden ranks.

V8 Supercars Teams’ Championship standings

1
Pepsi Max Crew
5293
2
Red Bull Racing Australia
5222
3
Holden Racing Team
4877
4
Brad Jones Racing
4013
5
Jack Daniels-Nissan Motorsport
3466
6
Nissan Nismo
3364
7
Wilson Security Racing GRM
3073
8
The Bottle-O Racing Team
2688
9
Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport
2481
10
Team Darrell Lea STIX
2467
11
Erebus Motorsport
2431
12
Supercheap Auto Racing
1706
13
DJR Team Penske
1600
14
Walkinshaw Racing
1539
15
GB Galvanizing Racing
1264
16
Super Black Racing
1188
17
Go Karts Go
108
18
Harvey Norman Supergirls
84

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