The 2011 Supercars season saw Jamie Whincup return to the top after narrowly missing out on the title the previous year; significant changes for foundation teams; a rookie winner at Bathurst; and one of the most spectacular crashes in the history of the category.
With a chapter extract from Supercars: The Holden VS Ford Era 1993-2020 (Gelding Street Press, $39.99), edited by Luke West and available now where all good books are sold, SupercarXtra Magazine issue #123 reflects back on the season.
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For the second consecutive year the driver who had won the title in a Ford would be defending it in a Holden. No one could blame 2010 champion James Courtney for disembarking the Dick Johnson Racing (DJR) ship for 2011. DJR appeared to be sinking under the weight of financial dramas and difficulties between Dick Johnson and Charlie Schwerkolt, and it was a small wonder the team actually made it to season’s end, let alone bagging the championship.
A lucrative offer from the Holden Racing Team (HRT) would have looked fairly irresistible to Courtney and long-time manager Alan Gow. The deal was done. Courtney had had an offer from Schwerkolt to join him in a Ford Performance Racing-run Falcon, with backing from Pepsi, but HRT’s offer proved too tempting. Courtney would be the replacement for Will Davison as HRT pushed on into 2011 in the wake of the death of owner Tom Walkinshaw a few weeks before Christmas.
It shaped up as a pivotal year for the HRT. The flagship Red Lion squad clearly was not the Holden team that had done the bulk of the winning in 2010. If this trend continued, Holden’s motorsport flagbearer was in danger of losing its lustre and becoming just another Commodore team.
The late Walkinshaw’s 23-year-old son, Ryan, arrived in Australia to assure everyone he was determined to restore his late father’s team to its former glory.
The main story of Bathurst 2011 was debutant Percat, who won the biggest race on the calendar – the biggest racing prize he’ll likely ever win – in his role as co-driver to Tander. It wasn’t a blemish-free performance by any means as he survived tagging the wall during his second stint. The racing gods that haunt Mount Panorama, usually so eager to teach errant newcomers harsh lessons, were smiling on the young South Australian that day, the #2 HRT Commodore emerging without damage from the incident.
Percat’s brush with the wall likely took the edge off the car’s performance and left Tander vulnerable to Lowndes during the sprint to the flag after the final safety car period, but the HRT team leader drew on all his experience to hold off car #888 by 0.3 seconds to claim his third Bathurst victory. Percat, meantime, became the first rookie to win the Great Race since Jacky Ickx in 1977.
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