Roland’s View: It’s time for more young blood in Supercars

Jayden Ojeda drove to outright victory in the 2023 Bathurst 6 Hour with Simon Hodges. Image: InSyde Media.

We’re six races into the Gen3 era and it’s already evident that some of the less experienced drivers are showing certain more established blokes the way home. It’s time for car owners to start seriously considering options for 2024 and replacing nonperformers.

Any team that doesn’t have its ducks in a row for 2024 by mid-year can’t really be taken as a genuine contender. Hence, whilst it might be seen as tough, the driver silly season should be underway now as existing driver performance continues to be evaluated in the coming races.

There are, of course, big names on the grid who’ve been around for some years such as Shane van Gisbergen, Chaz Mostert, Cam Waters, Anton De Pasquale and Will Davo who carry on demonstrating their proven ability even in the new cars. The DJR blokes might have had a horrendous Newcastle event, but they showed speed at the AGP and will undoubtedly be in the mix.

But then look at how some of the young guns are ripping up the form book. Clearly Brodie Kostecki, Broc Feeney, Will Brown and James Golding in particular are showing how it’s done.

For teams looking where to go in future, this isn’t necessarily about driver age. This is about whether drivers have had long enough to show themselves in the category and have yet to really show speed and race finishing ability on a regular and consistent basis.

It’s all very well being fast on occasion, like it’s all very well grabbing a result from time to time. But to really deserve a seat in the premier category in Australia, surely it’s necessary to at least be in the top 10 more often than not?

There are arguably up to six fully paid salaried seats in the Supercars Championship where team owners should be looking to replace drivers with young blood for 2024. To be frank, in days gone by, teams would even look at mid-season changes so as to give themselves a potential headstart going into the following year. It might be brutal but it worked for PremiAir last year.

It’s not as though there isn’t a host of up and coming drivers in Super2 who should be ready to step up in the next year or so.

One or two of those with great potential may well need a second year where they are, such as Ryan Wood, Zach Bates and Kai Allen to name several. But others with more experience (whether in or out of Super2) like Zak Best, Aaron Love and Cooper Murray should definitely be on the 2024 radar. And there are several others who may yet shine.

And then there are several drivers in the Endurance race line ups who are, without doubt, worth watching including, of course, Richie Stanaway.

If I was running a Supercars team today with a driver who wasn’t delivering both regular top 10s and with potential for more, then I’d be looking to have one or two options in place with drivers like Murray, Love, Stanaway or Best already – even if those options cost a few dollars. It would be money well spent even if I didn’t take up those options in the end for whatever reason.

Then, once a team does have a new pilot in place, give that person a full two seasons to make their mark. If the right signs aren’t there by then, it’s probably time to move on.

The point is, surely, if drivers are given a good crack of the whip but ultimately don’t deliver or are really just past their sell by date, then look elsewhere and take a calculated risk. This must be the case for those teams that simply don’t have the wherewithal to poach a top name from another squad but aspire to, at least, podium finishes. Flogging the same horse the same way every time isn’t going to change the result.

Meanwhile, hats off to the teams that have given Declan Fraser, Cam Hill and Matt Payne their opportunities this year – here’s to hoping that they all get the chance to show what they’re made of. If they’re good enough then they deserve to be in the category long term. If not, then move on.

By the way, there’s one driver sitting on the sidelines who, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t yet have an Enduro seat locked in, let alone a 2024 seat. That’s Jayden Ojeda.

If I was still active in team land and with a potential vacancy for 2024, I’d have him under option at the very least today.

Read the previous Roland’s View here.

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