Motorsport

Wet and Wild: Round Nine Roundup of Supercars

The rain arrived, the lights were on and the action commenced. The second week at Sydney Motorsport Park was a spectacle to say the least, with plenty of drama, penalties, great racecraft and a few wet spectators. It will take a bit for me to fully realise what on earth we just saw but let’s have a go. Let’s wrap up the west and wild weekend in Western Sydney.

Supercars on ice

There were of course three races, but we have to look at the final race first. We couldn’t have imagined a more dream scenario for all race fans both at the track and watching live on television. The lights were on, darkness came over and then a weather warning and the skies opened.

From the first lap, we knew that it was going to be a difficult race. Bryce Fullwood got the best start of his career going from eighth to first, except for the fact that it was a massive jumpstart. In saying that however, even the biggest stars have done it, with five-time champion Mark Skaife having done exactly the same thing all the way back in 1997. It was also a horror start for both Boost Mobile cars with James Courtney and Brodie Kostecki coming together and giving their sponsor some great coverage on television, bringing out the Safety Car.

After that incident however, there was action aplenty and it was a true showcase of just how talented our Supercar drivers are. The visibility was atrocious, even with those headlights blazing into the spray from the back of the cars. It was so difficult to see yet for the most part, all the racing was clean and there were some epic passes, especially from Tim Slade who overtook two cars at once at Turns 2 and 3.

After lap 25, the rain became too much and the race was red flagged and declared, but even though we were shortchanged in terms of laps, we weren’t shortchanged in action. Jamie Whincup was declared the winner, with Anton De Pasquale in second and Chaz Mostert in third.

An up and down weekend for Triple 8

For what is usually the class of the field in terms of solid and expected performances in both driver and team, Red Bull had a few issues throughout this round. For Shane van Gisbergen, the first two races of the round were typical van Gisbergen performances. A win and a second position, eating up those championship points is exactly what he needs in order to claim the championship before we head to Bathurst. But in race three, it all fell apart, going off the road at turn one, and then having to serve a pitlane penalty for an error by the team in his pitstop. Van Gisbergen would finish 23rd in race three, something that we rarely see at all.

Similarly, Whincup had an absolute mare in race two of the weekend. Given that Whincup is really the only person who can catch van Gisbergen for the championship, a performance like that is not what he needs. Given Whincup’s victory in race three and the fact that his teammate finished so far down the leaderboard, the points situation is basically where it was coming into this round. But it overall wasn’t the usual performance from Red Bull Ampol Racing that we usually see.

The performances of the round

From this round, there were three standout performances. Firstly, Chaz Mostert was incredible in race three. I cannot give him enough credit for what he did, climbing from last on the grid to a podium place in one of the most difficult races in Supercars in recent years.

Walkinshaw Andretti united did provide him with a fast car, after all Mostert did qualify the car on the front row before a technical infringement put him at the back of the grid, but the talent involved in taking his car from the back to the front in conditions like those, in cars that are hard to pass during the best of times, is insane. This is also his best performance climbing up the grid since he went from 26th (last as well) to 1st in the 2014 Bathurst 1000, and I think we all remember that performance quite well.

Another standout performance from race three that I should mention was Tim Slade, who drove his CoolDrive Mustang to fifth place. This is even more incredible if you take into account that his windscreen wiper wasn’t working… in some of the worst conditions ever. How he could even see is something I will never know, but that is an insane effort for a driver in such a small one-car team compared to the other powerhouse teams they are racing against.

A final driver to commend is Luke Youlden, who at the ripe old age of 43 made his solo debut in Supercars. Youlden has had a mega career of being an ace co-driver when the enduros come around, who’s resume includes a Bathurst victory with David Reynolds back in 2017. This time however, Youlden replaced Reynolds in his Penrite Mustang and raced hard in a car that he hasn’t driven all year.

Youlden finished 24th, 17th and 11th and it was a super-sub performance. he will be back in the car this weekend looking to build on those performances and to get more used to that Kelly-Grove Ford.

The Championship situation

Before we look at the 2021 championship standings, we need to look at the standings for the Sydney Cup, which was introduced at the start of these four Sydney Motorsport Park rounds for the driver who scores the most points over these races. Due to van Gisbergen’s lowly performance in race three, he only leads the Sydney Cup by 28 points over Will Davison with Anton De Pasquale in third.

In the Supercars Drivers Championship, van Gisbergen still leads by more than a round, 337 points in front of Jamie Whincup. The championship win for van Gisbergen looks even more likely now with only 900 points left in the season. I fully expect it to be wrapped up before we head to Mount Panorama.

Finally, Red Bull Ampol Racing hold a huge lead in the Teams Championship, 837 points in front of 2020 Team Champions Shell v-Power Racing Team.

Round 10 of the Supercars Championship resumes back at Sydney Motorsport Park on Saturday the 13th of November.

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