The first New South Wales round of the Supercars season has been run and won, as usual it was not short of action. Sydney Motorsport Park again hosted the first of three rounds in the south-eastern state this year and the last event this year to use the SuperSprint format. A great driver’s track, Sydney Motorsport Park once again shuffled up the cards, being the scene of some championship changing moments over the Sydney SuperSprint weekend.
- Fabian Coulthard left Sydney as the round winner, avoiding the weekend’s drama to accumulate another solid points haul at a point in the season where every little bit counts. While his qualifying form wasn’t quite there, race pace was Coulthard’s advantage, winning the opening 120km race and securing a well deserved second in the Sunday’s feature race. Consistency was Coulthard’s strong suit, not making the headlines but not fading away is how he succeeds. Despite flying under the radar, he has closed in on the championship lead to well and truly put himself back in to title contention.
- Jamie Whincup yet again put himself in to the Supercars record books after a successful Sydney SuperSprint weekend. After taking six championships and 71 pole positions to date, Whincup set a new record for race wins, surpassing Craig Lowndes by taking his 106th victory in the relaxed way we’ve been accustomed to seeing. Saturday’s race saw him finish in third after penalties were applied to his main championship rival. Four fresh tyres and a good strategy in Sunday’s race saw him clinch the record breaking victory. And now he is just 12 points off the championship lead as he looks for a seventh title.
- Chaz Mostert is hardly ever described as quiet but this round he was the quiet achiever, hauling in a swag of points to reel himself back in to the championship battle. Seventh in qualifying for race one was average by his standards but keeping his nose clean, despite actually bending it slightly, saw him come home second. A front row start for the final race of the Sydney SuperSprint was quickly converted to the lead on lap one, though a mis-timed strategy call meant fifth was the best he could do in the race. While he is a decent amount away from the lead of the championship, anything can happen and the past has shown it will.
- Scott McLaughlin may be heading in to the endurance season as the points leader but he will feel a massive target over his head after a weekend of damage limitation. It’s hard to list a driver who took both pole positions, taking out the award for the year and equaling a championship record in the process as a loser, but the harsh truth is poles don’t earn you points. Saturday soon became a farce at the restart when he spun Shane Van Gisbergen out of the lead, earning himself an eventual 33 second penalty to his finish time. Sunday was a mediocre affair, having a bad start didn’t help matters though he still came home in fourth. The young Kiwi holds the championship lead but will have to put in a consistent showing in the endurance races if he wants to take the title.
- Shane Van Gisbergen didn’t convert many Ford fans on Saturday when a bit of aggressive driving set up the talking point of the round. After a safety car in race one, he started to overlap with McLaughlin before the restart, bumping the Shell V-Power Ford as the pair went down the front straight. The aggression arguably led to McLaughlin spinning him at turn two but he earned himself a 33 second penalty post-race thanks to overlapping with his fellow countryman before the green flag came out. Sunday was quiet in comparison, despite leading the race he came under fire from Whincup, who he was instructed to let through, and title rival Coulthard, eventually coming home third. Small mistakes can have big consequences and if the reigning champion wants to defend his title, he needs to minimise the mistakes and keep his nose clean.
- Prodrive may have had success with Mostert and even Jason Bright, but the tough results were thanks to issues for Cam Waters and Mark Winterbottom. Waters had a weekend to forget with a 17th and a DNF in the two races; not ideal for someone whose endurance co-driver (Richie Stanaway) made his debut and won in the Super2 series. While Winterbottom had a decent Saturday, taking second on the grid which he converted to the lead, and ending up in fourth at the end. Sunday was disappointing for the former champion, finishing 19th after some late race dramas. Despite this, the #5 and #6 machines still sit in third on the team’s championship table, something they’ll look to retain to keep a good garage spot next year.
Next up, the season of endurance starts at Sandown Raceway in Melbourne. The Sandown 500 is the traditional start of the endurance races, named the Enduro Cup since 2013. Some off-season shuffling of seats will make this year’s races even more interesting as co-drivers get used to new cars which they have to drive.