A new venue and new surface for this year’s SuperNight race were set to make for some awesome racing and to give fans a prime-time experience of Australia’s premier racing category.
For the second year in a row, Supercars decided to run a night round to spice things up, this time moving from Sydney Motorsport Park to Perth’s Barbagallo Raceway for the 2019 interation of last year’s popular concept.
The racing was as good as ever on a new track surface which saw the lap times tumble, providing a good base for a great round of racing which was shown at prime time across Australia.
In keeping in context with the rest of the season, parity adjustments before the round couldn’t hinder the Ford Mustang’s near perfect run in 2019 as the pony car got up to the top step in both races over the weekend.
- Scott McLaughlin has continued his championship defence in near perfect fashion after ending up as a round winner yet again in 2019. The championship leader went in to Perth with confidence in abundance after winning the last four races at Barbagallo Raceway and holding the practice lap record. With the new tarmac laid down, McLaughlin further lowered the record time en route to taking pole for race one. Off the start, he struggled to get the #17 off the line, dropping to fourth by the end of the opening lap. An assault on his competitors in the following laps saw him jump back up to second where he stayed until the finish. Sunday again resulted in a pole position for the longer 200km race, followed by yet another bad start, ending up second in the first stint. Fighting Jamie Whincup for the lead, McLaughlin took it and held it, going on to take his eighth win of the season. It’s a good year for the young Kiwi who is remaining focused amid the ongoing parity debacle, well and truly showing that last season was not a flash in the pan.
- Fabian Coulthard is well and truly showing that he’s got his mojo back in 2019, winning his second race in a row and being one of the top performers in Western Australia. Turning up to Perth after taking his first victory of the year at Phillip Island, Coulthard was the best of the rest in Saturday’s qualifying, going second in the session to make it a DJR Team Penske front row for the race. A much better start on the racing line saw him take the lead into turn one where he stayed for the duration of the race thanks to supreme car pace over the field. Sunday saw him fall short of a podium finish, qualifying fifth and making up a spot through the race to end up fourth and leave the round as the second best performer. Keeping McLaughlin within arms reach in the championship, a consistent year so far is important for Coulthard if he wants another crack at the title.
- Jamie Whincup helped Triple Eight start their return to form in the night races at Barbagallo, performing as the best Holden across the two races and crucially finishing on the podium. Coming off the back of a disaster weekend at Phillip Island, the seven time champion had to energise his team and did so by fighting at the pointy end of the pack. Qualifying third for Saturday’s race, he had a chance after his pit stop to take second from McLaughlin but just missed out, later dropping a spot to Chaz Mostert to finish just off the podium in fourth. Sunday night was an improvement, converting a front row start to the lead by turn one thanks to McLaughlin’s tardy jump off the line. Despite holding track position, the Triple Eight Commodore didn’t have pace over the DJR Team Penske Mustang, having to settle for second by the end of the 200km. An improvement over the last round, Whincup is still longing for his first win of the year and will want it to come soon if he wants to be in with a shot of the title come November.
- Walkinshaw Andretti United continued their horror run in 2019 at Barbagallo Raceway with the team’s two drivers having mirror results of each other across the two races of the weekend. James Courtney was encountering Groundhog Day when his front right tyre suffered a puncture in race one, a plight which affected him in both races at Phillip Island. In a low attrition race, he came home last of the runners as team-mate Scott Pye finished 16th, far outside of a top 10 result. Sunday was equally as frustrating for the team with Courtney just lacking pace but gaining four spots through the race to finish 16th while Pye had a DNF after a poor attempt at a pass on Andre Heimgartner. It’s a hard year for the ex-Holden factory team and results better come thick and fast if they want to make their international owners stay around in the future.
- Richie Stanaway has endured another tough round in his 2019 campaign, failing to make the top 20 in either night race in Perth. The ousted Tickford driver from last season has struggled this year to make an impression with Garry Rogers Motorsport who threw the Kiwi a lifeline at the start of the year. Lacking speed and luck, Stanaway went from 15th on the grid to 22nd in the race on Saturday, far from the performance his talent has been promising. Sunday was a slight improvement, though 21st place at the conclusion from 18th on the grid is not what he or GRM are wanting this year. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong for the 2017 Sandown 500 winner but he’ll be wanting to turn his form around soon if he wants to prove that his credentials have a place in Supercars.
- Mark Winterbottom and the Team 18 crew both had renewed confidence this season after good results earlier in the year at Symmons Plains and wanted to carry some of that over to Perth. Going in to the round, Winterbottom led the tally of wins at the circuit among the active drivers, proving he knows how to perform around the tight and twisty track. However, each year is different and Frosty proved that this time out, failing to notch up a top 10 finish across either race. Saturday started poorly, qualifying 21st on the grid and only just moving up to 18th by the end. Sunday was quiet but resulted in a higher finish with car #18 coming home 15th after qualifying in that spot on the grid. In one of the more interesting battles of the year, Winterbottom sits 11th in the points standings, just ahead of Lee Holdsworth in 13th; the pair swapped teams at the conclusion in 2018 and are (unintentionally) showing what each driver can do in the other’s machinery.
From the western most race, we now head back to the east, moving on to Winton Raceway in country Victoria for the next round of the championship. Situated just outside of Glenrowan and absolutely nowhere, the small rural track has always provided some great races in the past few years and is the home track of the Melbourne based teams.
Image via Shell V-Power Racing Team