ABU DHABI // In a series as tightly contested and unpredictable as the V8 Supercars, finishing just behind the 2009 champion Jamie Whincup did not constitute a disappointing year for Will Davison in his first season with Holden Racing Team. He knows, however, that last season's solid performances, which included a win in the Bathurst 1000 - a race widely regarded as the pinnacle of Australian motorsport - will have to be bettered this term to eclipse his childhood friend Whincup.
"I was really happy to have finished second in my first year with HRT. We had a lot of wins, we won the Bathurst and had some fantastic results. I thought the transition would be more difficult and was concerned about making the most of such a big opportunity," he said. "Finishing second, and ahead of my teammate Garth Tander, who is one of the best drivers in the category by far, was a huge relief."
The principal difference 12 months later, maintained Davison, is the familiarity he has fostered with his team: settling in is over and business is about to begin. "It's really about continuity. I was new last year and gelling with the team was the initial challenge," he said. "But now we go into a year with nothing changed and knowing the car got faster as last season went on. On paper, we couldn't be better prepared. We're confident but aware of how strong our competition are; until we get going we won't know where we are though."
The unfamiliar Yas Marina Circuit surroundings could compound the uncertainty. "In terms of our sport and generating awareness, it is very important to be here," he said. "I agree that we should keep our series Aussie, but why not expand it by doing some overseas races? "No one would do it if the numbers didn't add up. The funding is good for us and we've got more races on our calendar this year than ever before. We are not taking races out of Australia, we've just added some in. For me, starting the year in the Middle East is awesome."
Abu Dhabi may be new to the V8 calendar, but Davison said the emirate will embrace the series' intense rivalries as drivers juggle their friendships with conflicting team duties and personal ambitions. "This will be my fifth season and it makes a difference coming here at the start of the season," he said. "The drivers are pumped up, re-energised and re-motivated and it will be fierce and competitive on the track - the rivalry is intense."