Season 2019 for the Supercars Championship is now officially over, having run its last laps around the increasingly popular Newcastle street track.
While the circuit has been the scene of two gripping championship battles over the past two seasons, this year’s race was set to be a more subdued affair with the Drivers’ Championship title already wrapped up. The Teams’ trophy was still up for grabs, rewarding consistency rather than conflict.
The stars of the series found their place at the front while those who haven’t featured in the headlines as much over the past season were desperate to get back in the spotlight before the summer break. For some it will be an endless holiday with the game of musical chairs coming to a slow end.
Just under 500 kilometres of racing was completed (thanks to a ridiculous time certain finish which really isn’t the way to end a season) and the 32nd race of the season was over, sealing the results of a record breaking and at times, unfortunately, controversial season.
More on that later; for now, here’s our list of winners and losers from the Newcastle street fight.
What a time for the Kiwi to come good. With his back against the wall for most of 2019, having to watch his teammate take 18 wins and the championship, Coulthard needed a good result to end the year, more just to remind people that he still existed more than anything.
As the Teams’ Championship was on the line, the DJR Team Penske driver stepped up to the plate and proved himself as the most consistent pilot in the field of 24, being the only driver on the podium in both races (his first appearance on the dais since Townsville) which helped the Stapylton squad take their second Teams’ trophy.
Although it’s been a tough year for Coulthard, especially in the wake of the Bathurst controversy, the proof is in the pudding with results at driver-focused street tracks coming for him. While he may not be the best driver in the field, he’s still among the top ranks on his good days.
Even though he was equal on points to his teammate Coulthard, one could be more critical of McLaughlin’s performance if you compare it to the rest of his statistics this year.
It’s almost shocking that the 2019 series champion didn’t take pole at the last round of the year around a track where he has excelled in previous seasons. However, playing the team game is all he had to do and without the pressure of sealing his own championship, he did just that with a (distant) second place and a comfortable fourth across the two races respectively. McLaughlin not only broke the record for points in a season but his 18 wins in 2019 put him above the Supercars record, and Team Penske benchmark, for victories over a year, showing just how great of a talent the 26-year-old Kiwi is.
It’s unfortunate that this year’s off-track distractions have clearly drained the now two-time champion but it’s hard to imagine him using that as anything other than fuel to go three-straight in 2020.
Triple Eight Race Engineering
For a moment there it looked like the factory Holden team would be able to pull off the seemingly impossible and come back from a massive points deficit to take the Teams’ Championship title.
Wins from each of their drivers across the two races brought them close to the goal but it was evidently too big a mountain to climb. Shane van Gisbergen’s effort to get pole on Saturday was astonishing; scraping by in tenth at the end of preliminary qualifying but then putting in the fastest shootout lap as the first car on the road has to be up there for moments of the season.
For Jamie Whincup, Sunday was another classic, clinical masterclass of exhibiting what he can do with car pace and a bit of clear air. The seven-time champion cruised to victory, notching up his fifth win for the year in a season where it looked like results would be few and far between for the Banyo boys. With Triple Eight dropping only two wins from Pukekohe to Newcastle, no one can question the fact that they will well and truly be in the title fight next season.
Anton de Pasquale
You’d be hard pressed to find someone with worse luck than this young bloke at the moment. It’s not often that two top ten starts result in being parked up in the Erebus garage but for AdP, that’s how the cards fell in Newcastle.
Carrying the “KISS” inspired livery to promote the legendary rock band’s final world tour (of which the Australian leg was ironically cancelled), de Pasquale found himself at the end of the road in Saturday’s race thanks to a power steering issue; an impossible problem to drive around when you’re racing on one of the most demanding circuits in the series.
Disappointingly, this result came off the back of a P5 start, backing it up on Sunday to grid up in P6 and drive consistently through the opening stint. Coming out from his pit stop, de Pasquale found himself in the sights of James Courtney, resulting in him being on the receiving end of a race-ending racing incident on the run down The Esplanade.
The 2019 season netted him a maiden podium, but to end the year in the garage was not in his plans, and a rough patch in the final rounds has seen him tumble to 14th in the points. Car speed has been AdP’s big advantage and something that the former open-wheel star will want to capitalise on next season as he looks to finally make it in the category.
And then there were two… Kelly Racing’s planned farewell for their much maligned Nissan Altima Supercars didn’t go down all too well, somehow failing to manage a top ten result with any one of their cars around a circuit which has suited all of their drivers in the past.
There isn’t enough space here to talk about how the Nissan program was a failure from the start or what could’ve, should’ve and would’ve been done to save it but the simple fact of the matter is that a failure to score a top ten result simply isn’t acceptable when you have so much firepower and talent to achieve it. Team owner Todd Kelly provided vintage form when he retired from the category in 2017 but brother Rick was unable to do the same to send off the Datsuns.
Andre Heimgartner was the quickest driver of the weekend, taking a 12th and 16th place finish home with him. Neither of these results pay the bills, rather they just make the heart yearn more for the incoming Ford Mustang. Simona de Silvestro had an unfortunately quiet goodbye from the series, both in terms of coverage and results; hopefully she’s back in the future as a co-driver but the question as to where remains to be seen. Going to two cars next year and a (hopefully) more competitive package, results like this weekend’s simply won’t be acceptable in 2020.
Garry Rogers Motorsport
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu GRM. After 24 years at Australian motorsport’s highest echelon, the colour and character of the Supercars grid is gone.
Wind the clock back 12 months and GRM still had Garth Tander, decent results and a presence in the sport. A turbulent relationship with their main sponsor and said sponsor’s chosen driver this year combined to see the sport lose one of the teams which exemplified racing for the love of it. This makes it doubly disappointing that one last good performance couldn’t be put in to go out with a bang.
James Golding did his best to stay out of the headlines, finishing 22nd on Saturday and improving (?) to come home in 20th on Sunday. For Richie Stanaway, the polarising Kiwi arguably performed above the car’s ability in both races with finishes of 16th and 15th; good enough but nothing to write home about.
With the former GP2 Series star announcing via Instagram that he’s giving up motorsport full stop, it added insult to injury and threw more questions into the mix about what kind of relationship Boost Mobile holds if their star driver and the team that took them on both pack up and go home within a year…
Scott ‘The Postman’ Pye licked the stamp and just sent it all weekend long, finishing in P6 on Saturday, ahead of his teammate James Courtney, despite starting from the rear of the grid.
To make it even more extraordinary, he was laid up in hospital barely 12 hours before after something dodgy got inside him, trying to escape out of both ends. P5 on Sunday meant he was the best of the rest and gave Walkinshaw Andretti United a good parting gift before moving over to Team 18 next season.
Tim Slade was able to take his second podium of the year in the last race, getting his face back into the picture as he is currently without a drive for 2020. Holding off the series champion looks good too, especially when you’ve been out-performed by your teammate Nick Percat for the whole season. Come to think of it, all of Sunday’s podium finishers came second in their respective inter-team battles for 2019…
We hope you’ve enjoyed the 2019 coverage of the Supercars Championship. Keep your eyes peeled for more news regarding the category as it undergoes a major shake-up in the off-season to try and restore parity, ensuring motorsport in Australia is made great again.
Image via DJR Team Penske, Erebus Motorsport, Garry Rogers Motorsport, Kelly Racing, Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Supercars