Jason Bright Should Step Aside For Richie Stanaway
Richie Stanaway has officially given up on his Formula 1 ambitions and is now looking for a start in Supercars next year. But there's one condition: it has to be a competitive car. Meanwhile, 44-year-old Jason Bright occupies a competitive Prodrive Falcon. Stanaway is in his second year as a Prodrive endurance co-driver You can see where this is going.
Or at least where it should be going. The situation is complicated by the fact that Bright owns his own Racing Entitlement Contract. A REC is what gives someone permission/obligation to enter a car in Supercars. This means that Bright can, if he wants to, stay in the championship as long as he can keep funding his entry. He is currently in the first of a two-year contract to run his REC as a Prodrive satellite team. The car is officially entered under his own team Britek, but the entire operation is run by Prodrive. On race weekends he shares a pit bay with Chaz Mostert.
Bright’s contract prevents Prodrive from dumping him at the end of the year, but he can step down voluntarily as long as he keeps his REC at Prodrive. As a technique for overstaying your welcome, it's excellent.
Jason Bright was once a very good driver. He won Bathurst back in 1998 with Steven Richards in a Stone Brothers Racing Falcon. From there he was picked up by the Dick Johnson Racing. He then went to America to pursue a career in IndyCar, racing in Indy Lights and at the Indy 500. Australians drivers rarely last long racing overseas. They usually run out of money before making it out of junior formulae, and for Bright it was no different. He came back to Australia to replace Craig Lowndes at the Holden Racing Team, where he finished third in the 2001 championship and fourth in 2002. After two years at HRT he went to Paul Weel racing and repeated those results. In 2005, he replaced Craig Lowndes at Prodrive, then competing as Ford Performance Racing.
Ford threw a lot of money at Bright. They even assisted him in establishing his own team in 2007. Britek ran a two car V8 Supercar team and Ford's factory Australian Rally Championship team. Bright wasted the last of his best years at Britek before giving up at the end of 2008, leasing and then selling one REC and running the other as an SBR satellite team. After just one season he moved to Brad Jones Racing, driving one of their two lead Commodores while his REC propped up the third car driven by a string of pay drivers. This arrangement lasted seven years before BJR decided they no longer required his services. He could have taken the hint and retired gracefully. Instead, Bright took his REC with him. At first, he wanted to buy a Triple 8 Commodore and find somewhere to run it, but then Prodrive satellite Super Black Racing folded and sold their REC to Tim Blanchard, opening up a space there.
Now he sits 21st in the driver's championship. The only Prodrive driver not in the top 10. He's the only one of the six Ford drivers not in the top 10. Bright thinks he can still have some success as a driver but he's well past that. His last race win was in 2013. It's time he stood aside and let a young driver have a go. Someone like Richie Stanaway.
New Zealander Stanaway started racing in Europe in 2008, hoping to make a career in F1. He won the ADAC Formel Masters in 2010, before moving on to German Formula Three and winning that championship too in 2011. From 2011 to 2015, Stanaway competed in GP3, GP2, Formula Renault 3.5, the Porsche Supercup, the World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series. Racing for Status Grand Prix in the 2015 GP2 Championship, his only GP2 season, he won at Monaco and Sochi and finished 10th in the championship, despite missing the last four rounds.
He certainly impressed in the Super Black Racing Prodrive Falcon he shared with Chris Pither in the Enduro Cup last year. In his first V8 Supercar race at Sandown, with slicks on a wet track, he made it to second place before a sudden downpour just two laps before his minimum lap target put an end to his charge. At Bathurst Pither and Stanaway were one of the least experienced pairings but still managed to finish 12th.
In preparation for the upcoming endurance season co-driving for Prodrive’s Cameron Waters, Stanaway will be competing in the Super2 round at Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend. All the big teams will be watching him, although few, if any, have a space for him next year. Jack LeBrocq would be first in line at Nissan if Todd Kelly stepped down, and Fabian Coulthard is likely to retain his place at DJR Team Penske. Even if he doesn’t, Roger Penske has previously said he’s not interested in a rookie driver. He only wants proven race winners. Tim Slade’s contract with BJR expires at the end of the year, but it seems unlikely that Stanaway will go there at this stage. Replacing Bright at Prodrive seems like his best option. Stanaway is willing to wait, so a drive at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport is all but out. If it doesn't happen this year, you could expect to see him at Prodrive in the Super2 series.
Bright may keep driving next year, but that would surely be it. Prodrive won't give him the option. They'll offer to continue running it a satellite team, but they will be want Stanaway in the car. Assuming he's still available. If he's not, Garry Jacobson is next in line. Prodrive have already lost Jack LeBrocq to Nissan and they won't want to lose Stanaway. Bright can either accept whatever Prodrive offer or go down the expensive path of running the car himself. There are no other places open for a satellite team. Both Bright and Prodrive must know this and posting could use this to get him out of the car a year early. They could offer him an endurance drive. Being Mostert or Mark Winterbottom's co-driver would have to be the more dignified choice at this point in his career. But if Prodrive push too hard Bright could walk out and leave them without a fourth car. Securing a fourth REC wouldn't be easy.
Richie Stanaway absolutely deserves of a full-time drive in Supercars next year. The only thing standing in his way appears to be Jason Bright. It’s time to move on Jason, you’re a long way from what you used to be.