V8s fire up in Abu Dhabi

THE Australian V8 Supercars return to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for the opening round of the 2011 V8 Supercar Championship this weekend.

The GP2 Series will be on track for their first round of the season as well as a round of the Cytech UAE GT Championship as a support race.

The Fords and Holdens will fire up once again for the Yas V8 400 this weekend, February 11-12.

The final event of 2010 at Sydney's Homebush street circuit in December saw James Courtney claim his first V8 Supercar Championship, making it Dick Johnson Racing/ Jim Beam Racing's first since 1995 and a third consecutive title for the outnumbered Fords.

However, soon afterwards, and in the wake of much speculation, it was confirmed that, just like Jamie Whincup and TeamVodafone the year before, Courtney was making the switch to the red side.

Instead of the No.1 being on the door of the Jim Beam Falcon, it will appear on the side of a HRT Commodore. Courtney will replace Will Davison in 2011 to pair alongside Garth Tander.

Many Ford fans feel betrayed and cheated by the fact that they have missed out on the well-deserved No.1 for the second year running, although the more positive are hoping Davison will return to the winning form that he displayed in 2009 after he gave Whincup a run for the title to finish a close second in the championship.

Davison hops back into a Ford to replace Steven Richards as a full-time driver for Ford Performance Racing, alongside new team-mate Mark Winterbottom, who finished in an awesome third place in last year's championship and competed in the 2011 Australia's Greatest Athlete television series which will air this Sunday. However, Richards is likely to rejoin the team for the enduro rounds later in the year.

Jim Beam Racing and team owner Dick Johnson have confirmed that James Moffat will replace Courtney for 2011. The ownership issue of last year has been resolved with sponsor Crimsafe becoming a minor partner to Johnson as well as some former big names in the V8 Supercar administration who have come on board to help an old friend out.

Former Jim Beam Racing team principal Adrian Burgess has started his new role at rival Team Vodafone. This is one of several changes for the team, others including: James Courtney's engineer, Scott Sinclair, making the move with him to HRT, as well as Mark Fenning joining Paul Morris Motorsport to engineer Russell Ingall's Commodore, and Blake Smith – Courtney's data engineer in 2010 – will work with Steve Owen and his new entry.

Matt Nilsson has left the Holden Racing Team to join FPR in an overall engineering position. Ex-FPR engineer Dan Kroehn has moved to Stone Brothers Racing to work with Alex Davison.

So the drought for motorsport fans is about to break as all the action of the V8 Supercars will hit our television screens this weekend for the start of the 2011 V8 Supercar Championship.

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