TIM Slade has emerged as an unexpected player in the Repco Supercars Championship silly season.
The two-time main game race winner returned from a season out to be the Blanchard Racing Team’s inaugural driver last year, and has seemed a natural fit ever since.
After a solid run to 12th in the 2021 championship, Slade started the new season with a bang, regularly qualifying and racing inside the top 10, headlined by a pair of fourth-place finishes at Albert Park.
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The campaign has capitulated from there, with a puzzling disappearance in pace as seen by qualifying 25th, 27th and 26th for the three races last weekend at Tailem Bend.
Slade remains 10th in the standings though, by virtue of recovering ground in race trim and having no DNFs.
An extension of the relationship between BRT and off-contract Slade, who turned 37 yesterday, was long thought to be a formality in what has become an uncharacteristically stable driver market.
However, it’s now believed Slade will almost certainly be on the move to a rival team, with the paddock rumour mill lighting up at The Bend.
V8 Sleuth understands BRT tabled a new deal last month but the #3 Mustang driver knocked it back.
Many of the top teams have filled their rosters for next year, when the Gen3 era will begin.
Triple Eight Race Engineering, Walkinshaw Andretti United, Matt Stone Racing and most recently Erebus Motorsport have all confirmed unchanged line-ups for 2023.
Dick Johnson Racing and Team 18 are set to follow suit, with Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom both becoming increasingly likely to stay alongside respective teammates Anton De Pasquale and Scott Pye.
Tickford Racing is dealing with a five-into-four scenario, with a decision to be made on whether Super2 driver Zak Best dislodges any of the incumbent quartet. Cameron Waters will continue on as its spearhead regardless.
Little is tipped in the way of change at Brad Jones Racing, while Grove Racing is set to promote protégé Matt Payne in place of Lee Holdsworth.
That just leaves PremiAir Racing as the key player in the market.
The likes of Davison and Winterbottom had been linked to PremiAir, but with those names now seemingly off the board, Slade would be a logical target for team owner Peter Xiberras to make a splash.
If Slade indeed does depart, BRT then would become an intriguing factor, with no shortage of talent looking to force their way in.
Those in the market include exiled full-timers Fabian Coulthard and Zane Goddard, and a list of Super2 talent headlined by Triple Eight youngsters Cameron Hill and Declan Fraser.