2019 Newcastle 500 – Preview

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Scott McLaughlin clinched his second Supercars Championship last time out at the 2019 Sandown 500, with McLaughlin and his co-driver Alexandre Prémat finished in a lowly ninth, but the drama since the 2019 Bathurst 1000 victory for Car No.17, and for McLaughlin, Prémat, and DJR Team Penske has continued, with of course the penalty surrounding Car No.12 at Bathurst of Fabian Coulthard, who was in the car at the time, and Tony D’Alberto for holding up the field after the safety car was deployed on Lap 135 of the Bathurst 1000, allowing Jamie Whincup and Scott McLaughlin to escape up the road to have essentially a free pit-stop, and was the catalyst for Car No.17 to win the 2019 Bathurst 1000.

Then, we had the revelation from CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) and Supercars at Sandown in regards to the qualifying engine of Car No.17 that “the valve lift in a number of cylinders was found to have exceeded the maximum permitted valve lift prescribed”, and then the subsequent penalty for Car No.17 to be disqualified from qualifying at the 2019 Bathurst 1000, and therefore being stripped of their pole position at Bathurst, DJR Team Penske being fined $30,000, and Car No.17 being forced to start the Sandown 500 from the back of the grid, but crucially were able to keep their victory in the 2019 Bathurst 1000.

Now, the way that CAMS, which will become Motorsport Australia in 2020, and Supercars stewards decided to punish Car No.17 was an admission, without actually saying it, is that they had made a mistake in not punishing Car No.17 and DJR Team Penske earlier, as in at the Bathurst 1000, and it is not the first mistake CAMS and Supercars have made in 2019, and both of them are going to have to have a deep review of their technical and sporting operations in the off-season heading into 2020.

However, despite all the conjecture and debate about the credibility and validity of the success of Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske, and the Ford Mustang, the one thing is for sure is that McLaughlin is a deserving two-time Supercars champion, and it will be celebrated at the 2019 Newcastle 500, the 15th and final round of the 2019 Supercars Championship.

McLaughlin (3614 points) leads the championship by an unassailable 550 points over Shane Van Gisbergen (3064 points) from Triple Eight Race Engineering, who is in a three-way battle for second in the championship with his teammate Jamie Whincup (2968 points), and McLaughlin’s teammate in Fabian Coulthard (2791 points) heading into Newcastle.

Behind the Top Four, Chaz Mostert (2705 points) is fifth in the standings for Tickford Racing, and is still a chance of finishing third in the championship, while David Reynolds (2517 points) will finish outside of the Top Three in the final standings for Erebus Motorsport regardless of what happens on the streets of Newcastle.

Then, there is a huge five-way fight for what will be likely seventh in the championship between Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters (2387 points) and two of his teammates in Will Davison (2369 points) and Lee Holdsworth (2323 points), as well as Nick Percat from Brad Jones Racing and James Courtney from Walkinshaw Andretti United, the team that he will be leaving after the Newcastle 500 to join the new Sydney team in 2020.

Looking at the Teams’ Championship, there is 116 points separating DJR Team Penske (6101 points) and Triple Eight Race Engineering (5985 points) with the battle being reinvigorated after the 300 point penalty handed out to DJR Team Penske after the actions of the team in telling Fabian Coulthard to hold up the field at Bathurst.

In regards to the Newcastle Street Circuit, it is important to note that the track has been lengthened by 12 metres to 2.641 kilometres, with the Turn 11 hairpin being revised, with the approach into Turn 11 being lengthened by 11.5 metres.

So, who will win the 2019 Newcastle 500?

I think all the distractions that have happened over the last few weeks, plus the crash on the Gold Coast have really affected Scott McLaughlin, but with the distractions largely out of the way, I think McLaughlin will dominate the Newcastle 500, winning both races to finish his largely incredible season in style!

 

2019 Bathurst 1000 – Preview

It is Australia’s Great Race, 161 Laps, 1000 kilometres, it is the Bathurst 1000, and with it being the start of the endurance season in 2019, it is set to be dramatic once again!

And with that comes a myriad of storylines!

Defending Bathurst 1000 winner Craig Lowndes partnering up with Jamie Whincup, who he won the great race with three times from 2006 to 2008, also finishing fifth together back in 2009 despite serving a drive-through penalty early in the race due to an unsafe release in the first pit stop. Lowndes is attempting to win his eighth to get within one victory of Peter Brock at Mount Panorama, Whincup looking to become the seventh driver to win the Bathurst 1000 at least five times.

Then we have Shane Van Gisbergen and Garth Tander together in tandem in what is set to a fabulous combination throughout the endurance season. Then we have Steven Richards, a five-time winner and defending champion reuniting with Mark Winterbottom, who he won the great race with back in 2013.

David Reynolds, along with Luke Youlden, will be searching for redemption in 2019 after Reynolds suffered from heavy fatigue throughout the 2018 Bathurst 1000, surrendering the lead to Craig Lowndes, and preventing the pair from defending their 2017 crown.

And while I could talk about many other storylines, including the wildcard pair from Walkinshaw Andretti United of former Formula One driver and 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi, and six-time IndyCar race winner James Hinchcliffe, the ultimate story of the 2019 Bathurst 1000 will likely centre around six Ford Mustangs, in particular Car No.17 led by defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin, with Alexandre Prémat partnering up with him as the endurance season begins in earnest at Round 12 of the 2019 Supercars Championship.

McLaughlin (3008 points) leads the championship by a massive 598 points with four rounds remaining after dominating the field like few have done before, and certainly not in recent years, winning at every circuit on the calendar in 2019, achieving 17 wins, 14 pole positions, and 10 fastest laps from 24 races (23 starts), and with a car that should be mighty around Mount Panorama, McLaughlin knows, along with Prémat, that this is their best chance of claiming their first win at The Great Race, and give DJR Team Penske, formerly known as Dick Johnson Racing, their fourth victory at Bathurst.

Van Gisbergen (2410 points) is second in the standings for Triple Eight Race Engineering, followed by 2014 Bathurst 1000 champion Chaz Mostert (2327 points) for Tickford Racing, who will be partnering with James Moffat for the endurance races, and McLaughlin’s teammate Fabian Coulthard (2317 points), with Coulthard partnering with Tony D’Alberto for the next three rounds.

Whincup (2140 points) is fifth in the championship for Triple Eight Race Engineering, with Reynolds (2084 points) in sixth for Erebus Motorsport. They are followed by Cameron Waters (1975 points) from Tickford Racing, partnering with Michael Caruso, Nick Percat (1894 points) from Brad Jones Racing, who will be partnered by Tim Blanchard, with 23Red Racing (Tickford Racing) driver Will Davison (1811 points), and fellow Tickford Racing driver Lee Holdsworth (1704 points) completing the Top 10 in the standings, and will be competing in the endurance season with Alex Davison and Thomas Randle respectively.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Bathurst 1000?

The favourites have to be Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Prémat from DJR Team Penske, and given the form that both the team and McLaughlin have shown in 2019 with the Ford Mustang, they could be close to untouchable this weekend!

You sense that the last round in Pukekohe in New Zealand was one of the weaker circuits for the Ford Mustang, along with Symmons Plains, Queensland Raceway (to a lesser extent), and quite possibly Sandown, which will be the third of the endurance events, while Bathurst is arguably on paper the strongest circuit for the Ford Mustang, so despite the ongoing parity adjustments for the Ford, Holden, and Nissan, I still feel like the Ford Mustang, especially in the hands of McLaughlin, will have a huge advantage over their rivals.

I cannot see anyone other than McLaughlin taking pole position for The Great Race, unless McLaughlin makes a massive mistake, and that will be the perfect platform for both McLaughlin and Prémat to surge to victory at Mount Panorama.

2018 Bathurst 1000 – Preview

After 12 rounds of exciting, wheel-to-wheel racing in the 2018 Supercars Championship, the entire field heads to Mount Panorama for Australia’s Great Race, the Bathurst 1000, and after the domination at the Sandown 500 by Triple Eight Race Engineering in finishing first, second, and third with its three cars, the rest of the grid, including DJR-Team Penske will be looking to respond with glory at Australia’s spiritual home of motorsport.

Shane Van Gisbergen (3054 points) (partnered with Earl Bamber) leads the championship for Triple Eight Race Engineering by 55 points over DJR-Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin (2999 points) (partnered with Alexandre Prémat) heading into the Bathurst 1000 after finishing second at Sandown, and is looking to win the Bathurst 1000 for the first time, while McLaughlin, who finished a disappointing fourth at Sandown, will be attempting to claw back some ground on Van Gisbergen in the championship, and claim his first victory at The Mountain.

If McLaughlin (with Prémat) wins the Bathurst 1000, and Van Gisbergen (with Bamber) finish off the podium, McLaughlin will regain the championship lead.

Jamie Whincup (2716 points) (partnered with Paul Dumbrell) is third in the championship for Triple Eight Race Engineering after winning the Sandown 500 for the fourth time (third time for Dumbrell), but the defending series champion is still 338 points behind teammate Van Gisbergen in the standings heading into the Bathurst 1000, a race that neither Whincup or Dumbrell have won since 2012, despite being fast at Mount Panorama on numerous occasions since then. Whincup will be desperate to change that record this year to keep his chances of winning an eighth championship alive.

Behind the top three in the championship are the drivers who realistically cannot challenge for the 2018 Supercars Championship, but can certainly make an impact as to who might eventually claim the title in 2018.

Craig Lowndes (2487 points) (partnered with Steven Richards) is fourth in the championship in his final full-time Supercars season. Of course the big news since the Sandown, in which Lowndes (with Richards) finished third, is that the irreplaceable three-time series champion and fan favourite will be replaced by nobody after Triple Eight Race Engineering decided that they will downgrade back to two cars in 2019. However, as a full-time driver, Lowndes will be looking to go out on a high with a seventh win at The Mountain, and perhaps challenge for a top three finish in the championship.

David Reynolds (2435 points) (partnered with Luke Youlden) is fifth in the championship for Erebus Motorsport, and has generally been in career-best form in 2018 in what has been another consistent year for last year’s Bathurst 1000 champions. However, despite achieving two wins (Race 6 and Race 16), and a further five podiums, Erebus Motorsport haven’t been able to find enough speed regularly enough to enable Reynolds to challenge Triple Eight Race Engineering and DJR-Team Penske. Reynolds will be aiming for a top five finish in the championship, which would be his best championship finish since 2015 when he finished third for Rod Nash Racing (Prodrive).

Below the top five in the championship, McLaughlin’s teammate Fabian Coulthard (2114 points) (partnered with Tony D’Alberto) is sixth in the championship after struggling to match McLaughlin’s pace for much of 2018, while Rick Kelly (2098 points) (partnered with Garry Jacobson) is seventh in the standings after gradual improvements from Nissan Motorsport, finishing in the top 10 in 12 of the last 16 races, including claiming a win at Winton, as well as a further three podiums for the 2006 series champion.

Chaz Mostert (2048 points) (partnered with James Moffat) is eighth in the championship after an awful season so far with Tickford Racing, who have struggled to challenge the front-runners regularly, with Mostert only achieving one podium in 2018, a third-place finish in Race 20 of the championship at Queensland Raceway, and it is difficult to see them challenging for the victory at Mount Panorama, but surprises do happen, but I don’t think so.

The top 10 in the championship is completed by Scott Pye (1906 points) (partnered with Warren Luff) for Walkinshaw Andretti United, who have shown flashes of speed in 2018, and Tim Slade (1862 points) (partnered with Ashley Walsh) for Brad Jones Racing.

So, who is going to win the 2018 Bathurst 1000?

It is always such a hard question to answer, but on paper, this should be a circuit that should suit DJR-Team Penske better compared to Sandown, and in all honesty, Scott McLaughlin (and Alexandre Prémat) need to win the Bathurst 1000 to keep themselves at least within striking distance because after Bathurst, because in my opinion, the only track on paper that really suits DJR-Team Penske out of the remaining races is Pukekohe Park Raceway in New Zealand. If McLaughlin loses ground to Shane Van Gisbergen at Mount Panorama, his chances of winning his first championship in 2018 would reduce significantly.

However, you would expect Triple Eight Race Engineering, given their current form, to be right up the pointy end of the field this weekend, with all three cars a chance of the victory, with Erebus Motorsport, and Nissan Motorsport being outside contenders to take the Peter Brock Trophy home.

Whatever happens, it is sure to be a cracker, but I think Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell will overcome their bad luck at The Mountain in recent years, and take the win to give Whincup a fighting chance of winning his eighth championship.