With the halfway mark notched up in the 2016 Supercars calendar, it’s interesting to ponder the state of play in what is proving to be another hard fought year.
For the first time in many years, there is no clear favourite for the title. Every podium is different, instead of the same-again line-ups we have seen in previous seasons.
And the story is re-told with the state of the points tally, with a very narrow gap between the current front-runners. Coming into the Townsville event (Round Seven, July 8-10), Triple Eight teammates Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes are first and second on the leaderboard, with just 30 points the difference.
Scott McLaughlin, Mark Winterbottom and Shane Van Gisbergen round out the top five, with just handfuls of points between them. Interestingly, before Townsville, Whincup and Lowndes were among the roll call of single race winners, while McLaughlin, Van Gisbergen Tim Slade had won two each.
Despite his two wins coming into Townsville, Slade is in eighth spot in the title chase, while Will Davison and Michael Caruso, with one each, are ahead of him. James Courtney, in 10th, is the other race winner hoping to repeat his success and move further into contention.
So, with half a year to go, including the Enduro Cup battles at Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast, even that bottom half of the top 10 could technically be in with a shot if they do well in the next few rounds.
In fact, with such a wide variety of winners so far, it would seem this year’s title looks set to be determined by consistency rather than dominance. Driving clean and grabbing points where you can is looking to be just as much a path to the top of ladder, as winning everything has proven to be in seasons past.
What is great for long-time fans of the sport, is seeing the now-veteran Craig Lowndes in contention for a fourth Supercars title 17 years after his last crown.
Arguably still the most popular driver in the paddock, the perennial fan favourite has predicted that the title battle could go down to the wire at Sydney Olympic Park in late November, which is an exciting prospect.
With what has happened so far, it will be interesting to see what the rest of the season produces, especially with a new event coming up.
The inaugural Kuala Lumpur International SuperSprint (August 12-14) will be the first event in a four-year deal signed last year, to take the series to Malaysia.
Apart from the annual visit across the Tasman, this will be the first time the Supercars have raced overseas since Texas in 2013. Aside from the crews who conducted demonstration races in the wake of the signing, effectively all teams will be on a level playing field. That will throw yet another twist into the battle for the title. Bring it on!