After nearly 500km of racing across the opening weekend of the Supercars championship, a storyline for the year began to form.
The popular street circuit in Adelaide proved yet again to be a great place to start the season and kick off 2019 for the Supercars championship.
Here we have a look at the people who did and didn’t go well in the first two races of the year in a first for MotorsportM8; Winners and Losers.
As you may have guessed, the winners are those who put in the most impressive or important performances over the weekend and the losers are the ones who went home with their tails between their legs; though sometimes not through their own mistakes.
We’d love to hear what you think and who you’d put on the list; in a field of 24 cars, we can’t always get the order right!
- Scott McLaughlin started off his title defence in perfect fashion, completing his first clean sweep of the opening round of the year to exit the weekend with 300 points to his name. The reigning series champion qualified on pole provisionally but dropped to third after the Saturday shootout for the opening race of the year. A lightning start, aided by the front row getting away slowly, put the #17 in the lead by turn one, a position he stayed in comfortably until the end of the 250km. This win was his first around the Adelaide streets as well as the first for the new Ford Mustang Supercar. He backed up the strong form on Sunday, taking pole in the shootout and going toe-to-toe with his rival Shane van Gisbergen into the Senna Chicane, ending up on top and controlling the race to the flag. Heading into the Australian Grand Prix support event, the unofficial scene of the Kiwi’s first race win, McLaughlin will be confident knowing he’s started his year off as best as he could.
- Shane van Gisbergen may have ultimately lacked car speed across the weekend but two third place finishes put last year’s runner-up in the championship second in the points again to McLaughlin. The 2016 series champion had confidence in abundance heading in to the Adelaide round after clean-sweeping the poles and race wins over the past two years at the street race. However, he seemed unable to get good car speed in long runs, having to settle for third behind McLaughlin and Whincup in race one while qualifying for race two saw him provisionally qualify tenth. A stellar shootout performance meant he jumped well up the grid to second for the start, challenging McLaughlin in the opening laps but fading away as the stint went on. While he found himself on 12 lap younger tyres than second placed Cam Waters towards the end of the race, he couldn’t get the #97 Commodore past, having to settle for third again. Despite not having the same amazing start to the season as the past two years, second in the points isn’t to be sniffed at as he looks to mount another title charge to take the crown back from his fellow Kiwi.
- Jamie Whincup put in a now typical effort of damage minimising after struggling for car pace like his team-mate over the weekend, coming out on the other side with 234 points to his name and sitting in third spot in the championship standings. The seven-time series champion started on the front row for race one but a tardy start left him vulnerable to the hard-charging McLaughlin, dropping to fourth by the end of the opening lap but being let back past by van Gisbergen soon after. A long 250km of green flag racing saw him come home 13 seconds behind McLaughlin in second place. Sunday was a tougher day for Whincup, not making the top ten shootout and having to start from 12th place. It was clear in the second race of the weekend that he had better car pace than those around him but still not enough to mount a serious charge, making use of a pit lane incident to jump a few spots and wind up seventh. In the final stint he found himself fighting old rival Mark Winterbottom, now in Whincup’s old Commodore as a customer car, for sixth place but couldn’t find a way past. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s not to write off Whincup, even if he’s down in the early stages of the season.
Honourable mentions: Todd Hazelwood (first top ten result, driving a Triple Eight customer car in front of his home fans and making the shootout), Cam Waters (great defensive driving on Sunday to keep SVG at bay after being pulled from the Saturday race), Tim Slade and Nick Percat (South Australians giving BJR their best result in a while, best of the rest on Sunday).
- Chaz Mostert has been left to rue what might have been after several unforced errors took the Tickford driver out of contention for a good result in both races. After an off-season which saw the 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner race in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the Bathurst 12 Hour, Mostert struggled in the Mustang in opening qualifying, managing only 12th in the session. Throughout the race, he started to make up places as rivals couldn’t find pace to keep up with him, ending up in fifth place at the chequered flag but going into Sunday wondering what could have been if he had qualified higher. Sunday started off better, going second fastest in qualifying to be the second last car on the road in the shootout, though a kerb strike at the Senna Chicane meant he had to abort his lap early on. Starting from ninth, it was going to be another long day ahead as he found himself fighting with van Gisbergen and Will Davison throughout the middle stint. Despite having a quicker car, Mostert twice ran off the road, undoing all of his hard work. A safety car on lap 27 saw he and a majority of the field take to the pits but congestion in the lane saw him released into the path of Rick Kelly, blocking the pit lane and dropping him a lap down. A drive through penalty added to his woes, eventually crossing the line in 15th despite having one of the quickest cars in the field. It seems the Mostert of old has returned; dynamic but inconsistent, something he’ll be wanting to change so he and Tickford can mount a strong championship charge.
- Fabian Coulthard was nearly on track for one of his best weekends in a long time if it wasn’t for the return of the black cat which plagued him throughout 2018. After being lowest on points of any race winner last year, Coulthard looked to have returned to his strong ways like we saw in 2017 by putting himself on pole for the season opening race, giving the new Mustang a pole position on debut. However, after reacting to Whincup’s flinch at the start, he was given a 10 second penalty for leaving his grid box before the lights went out, putting his day on the back foot early on. He chipped away at everyone during the race, finishing in sixth place and with redemption on the mind for Sunday. Despite performing well in Sunday’s shootout, Coulthard was excluded from the session for a parc ferme breach, meaning he had to start from 10th place for the race. he was doing well in the early stages until he was caught in the pit lane fracas, having to come in again for fuel under the safety car and later losing more positions thanks to a wheel nut issue in his final pit stop. After showing great speed across the weekend, Coulthard’s finishes of sixth and 20th leave him 11th in the standings, over a race’s worth of points down on his team-mate.
- Walkinshaw Andretti United have previously been amongst the top pecking order in Adelaide but bad luck and a clear lack of speed highlighted the Melbourne team’s woes across the opening round. Despite James Courtney always starring around the Parklands Circuit, the 2010 series champion was nearly nowhere all weekend long. Qualifying ninth for race one, he lost a spot throughout the race to just scrape in to the top ten, well down on the leaders. Starting from 15th in race two, a lap one pit stop saw him change strategy compared to everyone else but still only finished 12th at the end of the race. Team-mate Scott Pye had the hardest weekend of the local boys, being the only driver to not finish the first race of the season. Coming around turn seven at full pace, Pye found Lee Holdsworth’s Mustang in the middle of the track after hitting the newly installed tyre barrier. The WAU driver limped the #2 car back to the pits but didn’t return to the track. Race two saw him line up in 13th on the grid and struggling for front end grip all race long, as well as being a victim of double stacking, finishing a lowly 17th. Now in the second year of an alliance with powerhouse teams Andretti Autosports and United Autosport, Walkinshaw must turn their luck around soon if they want to remain relevant at the front of the field.
Dishonourable mentions: Kelly Racing (Rick Kelly getting caught up in the pit lane debacle, Garry Jacobson’s Sunday crash and Simona De Silvestro’s opening lap spin in race two), Richie Stanaway (new team, same old results) and Lee Holdsworth (worst of the new Mustangs despite good pace, self-inflicted errors).
As mentioned before, next up is the Melbourne 400, supporting the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. This will be the second year that the Supercars have raced on the support bill as a championship round, having featured in every year since the AGP’s inception in 1985 as an exhibition round.
Jamie Whincup was the round winner last year in a four race weekend which saw four different winners in himself, Scott McLaughlin, Scott Pye and David Reynolds.
Image via Supercars
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