Image credit: V8 Supercars.

The winds of change are blowing down under in V8 Supercars, but there is one certainty, Jamie Whincup is still number one. 

Change is not only coming in with the rules – Gen2 rules take over in 2017 and in 2016 Ford are bowing out of not just of Australian production and racing. This year the final ever Falcon runs in V8S and could 2015 also be the year of the Kiwis?

On the other hand there is a sense of nostalgia as a former champion returns. After 9 seasons in America, Marcus Ambrose returns with the American and Australian heavyweights Roger Penske and Dick Johnson.

Ambrose will be returning home in familiar surroundings as he will race in the new Ford Falcon FG X. It’s the final ever time a new Falcon will be produced under the Ford Performance Racing banner as the team morphs into Prodrive Racing Australia.

While Ambrose will be looking for a solid return, Mark Winterbottom will be hoping that the new aerodynamics of the Falcon will help gain him a first title, in his tenth year with the team.

Winterbottom’s Prodrive team mate Chaz Mostert will be looking to build on his debut season where he took a sensational win a Bathurst.

“My first year driving with the Pepsi Max Crew was awesome and with a full year under my belt now I am keen to get out there and give it everything I’ve got,” said Mostert.

“Last year was a dream come true in many ways but to win Bathurst and recover the way we did after a tough start was just the icing on the cake.”

If Winterbottom and Prodrive want to clinch their first title they will have to beat Roland Dane’s Triple Eight Racing Engineering/Red Bull Racing Australia team.

Jamie Whincup, the most successful driver in the history of V8 Supercars, with six titles in seven years will be looking to add a seventh after securing a new three year contract extension with the team.

On the other side of the garage Craig Lowdes will be looking to bounce back after finishing fourth in the 2014 championship. The 39 year-old will need to prove that he’s worthy of the second seat at Triple Eight if he wants to continue after 2015.

Along with Triple Eight, the other major Holden contenders are in the form of the factory backed team with Walkinshaw Performance.

After a rebuilding season in 2014, the factory backed outfit will now look to expand on their three wins in what is their 25th year. Despite this, a championship challenge is probably just out of reach for James Courtney and Garth Tander in 2015.

One of the Kiwis that will be looking for more wins in 2015 is Scott McLaughlin. After having a superb debut year in 2014 – a stand out being their first win at the Clipsal 500 – Volvo and McLaughlin will be looking to add more consistent finishes to their 2015 campaign. If McLaughlin is able to do this then a championship challenge is on the cards.

In the second of the two Volvos Robert Dahlgren is out and David Wall is in, with the hope of Wall being a better supporting team mate to McLaughlin.

While McLaughlin maybe an outside shot at the championship for the Kiwis, his main challenge will come from Shane Van Gisbergen.

It’s simple for Van Gisbergen, if he wants a V8 Supercar title to his name he needs more wins. Last season Van Gisbergen claimed five compared to Whincup’s 14. The other problem holding Van Gisbergen back is the lack of a team mate. A one car team hasn’t won a championship since Glenn Seton Racing’s triumph in 1997.

The final of the factory backed teams comes from Japan in the form of Nissan. Run by Kelly Racing the team retains the same four drivers for 2015. 2015 does see a new design for the Nissan Altima and the new car has already proven it’s pace at Sydney Test finishing top in three of the four sessions.

It’s a big year for Nissan motorsport worldwide, and the Altima needs to prove it’s worth the investment, with Nissan Australia signalling that other options are available to them if needed.

The final manufacture to be seen on the grid is Mercedes, but not in the form of a factory backed effort. Erebus returns with a two car team, and will look to build on their one win at Winton Motor Raceway last year.

For 2015 Will Davidson stays with Erebus but Lee Holdsworth moves on to Walkinshaw Performance and is replaced by Ash Walsh.

V8 Supercars returns this weekend for the 17th running of the Clipsal 500.

2015 V8 Supercars Entry List:

1. Jamie Whincup – Triple Eight Race Engineering, Holden Commodore

2. Garth Tander – Holden Racing Team, Holden Commodore

3. Tim Blanchard – Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, Holden Commodore

4. Ashley Walsh – Erebus Motorsport, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG

5. Mark Winterbottom – Prodrive Racing Australia, Ford Falcon FG X

6. Chaz Mostert – Prodrive Racing Australia, Ford Falcon FG X

7. Todd Kelly – Nissan Motorsport, Nissan Altima

8. Jason Bright – Brad Jones Racing, Holden Commodore

9. Will Davison – Erebus Motorsport, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG

10. Michael Caruso – Nissan Motorsport, Nissan Altima L33

14. Fabian Coulthard – Brad Jones Racing, Holden Commodore

15. Rick Kelly – Nissan Motorsport, Nissan Altima L33

17. Marcos Ambrose – DJR Team Penske, Ford Falcon FG X

18. Lee Holdsworth – Charlie Schwerkolt Racing, Holden Commodore

21. Dale Wood – Brad Jones Racing, Holden Commodore

22. James Courtney – Holden Racing Team, Holden Commodore

33. Scott McLaughlin – Volvo Polestar Racing, Volvo S60

34. David Wall – Volvo Polestar Racing, Volvo S60

47. Tim Slade – Walkinshaw Racing, Holden Commodore

55. David Reynolds – Rod Nash Racing, Ford Falcon FG/FG X

97. Shane van Gisbergen – Tekno Autosports, Holden Commodore

99. James Moffat – Nissan Motorsport, Nissan Altima

111. Andre Heimgartner – Super Black Racing, Ford Falcon FG/FG X

222. Nick Percat – Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, Holden Commodore

888. Craig Lowndes – Triple Eight Race Engineering, Holden Commodore

2015 V8 Supercars Calendar:

February 26-March 1 – Clipsal 500, Adelaide,  Super Street format

March 12-15 – Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne, non-championship

March 27-29 – Tyrepower Tasmania Super Sprint, Symmons Plains

April 17-19 – Perth Super Sprint, Barbagallo Raceway

May 15-17 – Winton Super Sprint, Winton, Victoria

June 19-21 – Skycity Triple Crown, Hidden Valley, Darwin, Super Sprint format

July 10-21 – Castrol Townsville 400, Reid Park, Super Street format

July 31-August 2 – Coates Hire Ipswich Super Sprint, Queensland Raceway

August 21-23 – Sydney Motorsport Park Super Sprint

September 11-13 – Wilson Security Sandown 500, Melbourne — Pirtek Enduro Cup Rd1

October 8-11 – Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, Mt Panorama, Bathurst — Pirtek Enduro Cup Rd2

October 23-25 — Castrol Edge Gold Coast 600, Surfers Paradise — Pirtek Enduro Cup final

November 6-8 — ITM 500 Auckland, Pukekohe — Super Sprint format

November 20-22 — Phillip Island Super Sprint, Victoria

December 4-6 — Sydney 500, Homebush — Super Street format

Charlie Price – charlie@sportscarglobal.com