The countdown is nearly over as the Supercars Championship stars are set to kick off the 2019 season in Adelaide this weekend.
Ending a summer without Australia’s premier touring car category, the summer break was anything but for some as the game of musical chairs went into full swing after Newcastle. There are some new faces this year as well as some older ones missing. While the grid size has shrunk since last year, the competitiveness of the championship will remain with this calibre of talent.
Here’s who will be racing where for 2019 as well as a brief recap on the year’s runners.
DJR Team Penske
Scott McLaughlin will come into his first Supercars season as a reigning champion after clinching last year’s title in Newcastle. Despite electing to run the famous #17 rather than the #1 on his new Ford Mustang, there’s a lot of weight on the young Kiwi’s shoulders to keep performing for one of the sport’s biggest teams. As one of the category’s best qualifiers, putting the #17 Ford on the pole more than anyone over the past two seasons, McLaughlin will be the benchmark in qualifying to gauge just how good the new car is. With Fabian Coulthard staying onboard for his fourth season with the Queensland based squad, the 2017 championship contender will be hoping for good results in the Mustang after a lacklustre 2018 hampered his chances at a second championship tilt.
Coulthard struggled throughout 2018, taking only one win, at Winton, and finishing lowest in the championship out of anyone in the field who had won a race. With ten race wins, Coulthard is no slouch and will be hard to pass should he again have to act as a tail-gunner for his younger teammate this season.
The Melbourne based team is back to semi-permanent factory status after losing Ford Australia’s backing at the end of 2015. Last year’s Supercars season was a hard one for the squad, having only one win throughout the year thanks to Chaz Mostert on the Gold Coast. The 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner will remain at Tickford for his sixth straight season while Cam Waters enters his fourth year as a full-time Supercars driver after winning the 2015 Super2 title.
There’s been an off-season shakeup within the team, losing stalwart Mark Winterbottom who won the 2015 main game championship with them, being replaced by Lee Holdsworth. The three-time race winner will make his first starts in a Ford since driving for Stone Brothers Racing in 2012.
Operating out of the fourth Tickford garage will be Will Davison for 23Red Racing, driving as a “satellite” entry in the team where he spent three seasons between 2011 and 2013.
Triple Eight Race Engineering
For the first time since 2005, Triple Eight will be without three-time champion and series veteran Craig Lowndes as a full-time driver after his retirement at the end of 2018. However, with eight championship wins for the team between its two drivers, it’s hard to think that the team will struggle in its second year with the ZB Holden Commodore.
Seven-time champ Jamie Whincup is looking to bounce back after a hit-and-miss 2018 left him out of the title fight while 2016 series winner Shane van Gisbergen will be wanting to go one better than last year when he just missed out on a second title to McLaughlin.
With potentially the strongest Enduro Cup pairing on the grid, Lowndes will stay with the team as a co-driver to Whincup, reigniting their successful partnership from the late 2000s where they won the Bathurst 1000 three times in succession from 2006 to 2008. Joining van Gisbergen will be ousted GRM driver Garth Tander who, like Lowndes, has not missed a round since 1998 and has three Bathurst titles to his name. His undoubted speed, coupled with being nearly identical in size to van Gisbergen means the duo will be at the pointy end of the pack in the year’s longer races.
Looking to follow on from a successful 2018 season as the sport’s “best of the rest” team, Penrite Racing will again field lovable larrikin David Reynolds with young gun Anton de Pasquale as their contenders for the 2019 championship. Adopting a different philosophy to the bigger teams, Erebus has emerged as a fan favourite being the underdogs.
For Reynolds, redemption has been on the menu after being dumped from Prodrive (now Tickford) at the end of 2015 despite finishing third in the championship. The Albury boy has helped raise the team up since 2016, taking a Bathurst 1000 win in 2017 and pole for the Great Race in 2018.
De Pasquale helped this last year by having an amazing rookie season, being the second-best rookie in the pack and starting on the second row of the grid at Bathurst. With a year of experience under his belt, he’ll be challenging Reynolds and the rest of the field for the top of the pack for wins in 2019.
Walkinshaw Andretti United
Entering the second season as a powerhouse team, WAU will be looking for better results in 2019 compared to last season. After Walkinshaw merged with Andretti Autosport and United Autosports at the beginning of 2018, things started well with Scott Pye getting his first career win at Albert Park early on in the season.
However, results thereafter were few and far between with Pye finishing seventh in the standings, a career best, while 2010 series champion James Courtney went winless and ended up in 14th at the season’s end. Though an instant turnaround from a woeful 2017 wasn’t expected, now is the time for the team to start achieving consistent results if it wants to show itself as a genuine championship threat in the near future.
Brad Jones Racing
Going for consistency to help boost the team’s results, BJR has opted to keep their two South Australian stars in the #8 and #14 cars this season. While Slade took the Albury based team’s most recent win at their pseudo-home track, Winton Raceway, in 2016, it’s been a case of few and far between for Percat who is searching for his first win since the joining BJR at the start of 2017.
Some changes will be occurring in the team’s third car as Tim Blanchard has retired from full-time driving, giving up his seat to Macaulay Jones, son of Brad, in the #21 machine. After notching up a few wildcard and enduro cup starts over the past two years, ‘Macca’ will be making his full-time debut in Adelaide as he tries to be one of the star rookies on the grid.
Garry Rogers Motorsport
The 2019 season is set to be one of big change for one of the most charismatic squads in the pit lane which has not been met with total support.
In the off-season, Rogers and the GRM team sensationally dropped series veteran Garth Tander from driving duties, despite the 2007 champion believing he would be driving this year. His departure was to make room for ousted Tickford Racing driver Richie Stanaway who endured a horrible rookie season last year, performing well below the team’s expectations.
With him, the former GP2 Series race winner brings sponsorship from Boost Mobile who have departed Walkinshaw Andretti United, aligning with the brand’s “youth image” by retaining fellow 2018 rookie James Golding. Now seen as a more amateur line-up than ever, the GRM pairing will be wanting to perform better in their second years than when they debuted 12 months ago.
After a stellar debut season for Jack Le Brocq, the Gold Coast-based single-car outfit has retained the young gun’s services for 2019. Finishing the highest of all rookies in 2018, Le Brocq carried his pace across from the Super2 championship to the main game, netting a career-high finish of fifth place in Tasmania and recording four top 10 finishes throughout the year. Driving a Triple Eight customer car, it will be up to Le Brocq to keep driving well this year and in the near future if he wants to move up to a bigger team in the future.
Going through one of their biggest changes since moving to a single-car operation in 2016, Charlie Schwerkolt’s squad will this year be headed by 2015 series champion, Mark Winterbottom. After 15 years as a Ford driver, with 13 of those spent at the “factory” FPR/Prodrive/Tickford team, Winterbottom has defected to drive a Holden for the first time in his Supercars career.
This will mark the first time Team 18 has had anyone other than Holdsworth drive for them since he joined Schwerkolt’s operations in 2015 and will also see the return of Irwin Tools as a sponsor, ironically last appearing on Holdsworth’s Erebus E63 AMG in 2013. While Winterbottom is surely nearing the end of his full-time career, good results may well see him, and Team 18, stay in the sport for a few more years.
Matt Stone Racing
Looking to regroup after a particularly tough first season last year, Matt Stone Racing and Todd Hazelwood will have no excuses not to perform in 2019 with the experience gained last year as well as a Triple Eight ZB Commodore chassis.
After winning the Super2 title in 2017, Hazelwood and MSR stepped up to the main game and endured a trial by fire, struggling to come to terms with the Ford Falcon FGX and the competitiveness of the top series. A mid-season switch to the title-winning VF Commodore didn’t net any improvements although it signalled the beginning of a partnership with Triple Eight who will be helping the young team this year. Now that they know how it feels to be on the bottom, it can surely only get better from here for Hazelwood in 2019.
For the first time since the Car of the Future regulations began back in 2013, the Kelly brothers will be without factory backing after Nissan decided to axe the program at the end of 2018. The irony was not lost on anyone when, in the race directly after the announcement, Rick Kelly won at Winton to give the marque their first win since 2016.
He will be staying on as the lead driver in 2019, with a majority of the squad being retained for the year. The 2006 Supercars champion will again be joined by Swiss ace Simona de Silvestro, now in her third full-time season, and 2018 NZV8 Champion Andre Heimgartner.
While the team lost long-time driver Michael Caruso, who had signed to the team in the move to Nissan in 2013, 2016 Super2 champ Garry Jacobson will be making his full-time debut this year aboard the team’s fourth car. Without factory backing for the year, the team may struggle towards the end of the season though, as always, the aim will be to be fighting against the teams they fought last year and go one better.
|2019 Australian Supercars Championship – Confirmed Entry List|
|#||Team / Entrant||Car||Driver|
|2.||Walkinshaw Andretti United||Holden ZB Commodore||Scott Pye|
|3.||Kelly Racing||Nissan Altima L33||Garry Jacobson|
|5.||Tickford Racing||Ford Mustang S550||Lee Holdsworth|
|6.||Tickford Racing||Ford Mustang S550||Chaz Mostert|
|7.||Kelly Racing||Nissan Altima L33||Andre Heimgartner|
|8.||Brad Jones Racing||Holden ZB Commodore||Nick Percat|
|9.||Erebus Motorsport||Holden ZB Commodore||David Reynolds|
|12.||DJR Team Penske||Ford Mustang S550||Fabian Coulthard|
|14.||Brad Jones Racing||Holden ZB Commodore||Tim Slade|
|15.||Kelly Racing||Nissan Altima L33||Rick Kelly|
|17.||DJR Team Penske||Ford Mustang S550||Scott McLaughlin|
|18.||Charlie Schwerkolt Racing||Holden ZB Commodore||Mark Winterbottom|
|19.||TEKNO Autosports||Holden ZB Commodore||Jack Le Brocq|
|21.||Tim Blanchard Racing||Holden ZB Commodore||Macauley Jones|
|22.||Walkinshaw Andretti United||Holden ZB Commodore||James Courtney|
|23.||23Red Racing||Ford Mustang S550||Will Davison|
|33.||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Holden ZB Commodore||Richie Stanaway|
|34.||Garry Rogers Motorsport||Holden ZB Commodore||James Golding|
|35.||Matt Stone Racing||Holden ZB Commodore||Todd Hazelwood|
|55.||Tickford Racing||Ford Mustang S550||Chaz Mostert|
|78.||Kelly Racing||Nissan Altima L33||Simona de Silvestro|
|88.||Triple Eight Race Engineering||Holden ZB Commodore||Jamie Whincup|
|97.||Triple Eight Race Engineering||Holden ZB Commodore||Shane van Gisbergen|
|99.||Erebus Motorsport||Holden ZB Commodore||Anton de Pasquale|
Images via Erebus Motorsport, Kelly Racing, Matt Stone Racing, Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Supercars Championship, Team 18, Walkinshaw Andretti United
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