James Courtney June 15, 2012
Holden Racing Team driver James Courtney previews this week's sixth round of the 2012 V8 Supercar Championship at Hidden Valley, near Darwin .
Datsun jokes and Craig Lowndes' Queen's Birthday Honours award are topics of interest ahead of this week's championship round in the Northern Territory.
The Datsun "wise cracks" have been started by Ford driver Shane Van Gisbergen.
"Why would I want to drive a Datsun?," he reportedly quipped to Auto Action magazine recently.
Shane's comment was made when asked if he would consider joining the new Nissan factory team in 2013 operated by Kelly Racing. He later decided to remain with Stone Brothers Racing.
Nissan, parent company of the Datsun brand, enters the championship next year alongside Holden and Ford under the Car Of The Future (COTF) regulations.
Jokes about Datsun drivers and owners have been around for years.
This is something I know because my first wheels were a silver Datsun 1200 ute which I bought as a teenager when growing up in Penrith.
My father and I scoured wrecking yards to make it a good ride.
Jokes aside, an intriguing aspect of Nissan's move into V8 Supercars will be the reaction from fans.
Many drivers, teams, and officials view Nissan's entry as positive for the category because it will create extra jobs and funding, and make the competition more diverse.
However, fan reaction is less predictable, especially considering what happened at Bathurst in 1992.
That's the race Jim Richards and Mark Skaife won in a Nissan GTR, and when they were jeered on the podium Jim made his famous comment: "you're a pack of arseholes."
Nissan withdrew from the championship at the end of that season because the category switched to a Holden-Ford series in 1993.
Times have changed, and I think fans are now much more accepting of a Japanese manufacturer in the championship, along with any other overseas companies who decide to join in.
Lowndes will be on a high for the sixth championship round at Hidden Valley near Darwin, which starts with practice on Friday, followed by races over 120km on Saturday and 200km on Sunday.
He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division in this week's Queen's Birthday Honours for: "service to motor racing and to the community, particularly through road safety education programs and charitable organisations."
Craig' deserves the recognition with five Bathurst 1000 wins, three championship titles, 10 years as an ambassador for RSPCA and his contribution to the 'V8 Supersafe Kids' road safety program.
He also works hard promoting the V8 Supercar category off the track with media and fans.
I had a big shunt with him at Adelaide in 2008 which destroyed both our cars. I blamed him, and he blamed me, but in reality it was two competitive drivers fighting for track position and sometimes incidents happen.
The championship is tight, with Will Davison from Ford Performance Racing's leading by 10 points from Lowndes' Team Vodafone Commodore team-mate Jamie Whincup.
Davison and FPR team-mate Mark Winterbottom won all seven races in the past three rounds at Hamilton in New Zealand, Barbagallo Raceway near Perth, and Phillip Island in Victoria.
The Hidden Valley circuit has a 1.1km front straight, so engine performance and top-end speed are important. Cars will be fitted with a mix of soft-compound 'sprint' tyres and durable 'control' rubber for the two races.
The Holden Racing Team had a test session at Winton Raceway in Victoria since the previous round, so both Garth Tander and I are hopeful of improved results on the 2.9km Hidden Valley layout.
New Zealand driver Greg Murphy will miss Hidden Valley, and the following three rounds, because of persistent back problems which require surgery.
The four-times Bathurst champion will be replaced in the Pepsi Max Commodore at Hidden Valley by Brisbane racer David Russell.
Championship points (after round 5):
Will Davison (Ford) 1,216
Jamie Whincup (Holden) 1,206
Mark Winterbottom (Ford) 1,187
Craig Lowndes (Holden) 977
Shane Van Gisbergen (Ford) 953
Lee Holdsworth (Ford) 932
Tim Slade (Ford) 879
Garth Tander (Holden) 816
Fabian Coulthard (Holden) 766
Rick Kelly (Holden) 673
Other: James Courtney (Holden)