Motorsport

The Champ is crowned: Summing up Round 11 of the Supercars Championship

Just like that, we are all done at Sydney Motorsport Park for the year. The last four weeks went rather quickly, and last weekend saw Round 11 wrap up at the Eastern Creek venue. Two endurance races (planned anyway) were on the menu for all of us race fans and we were treated again to some action, great racing and lots and lots of rain.

So while there is only one round left in the 2021 Supercars Championship season but before we look forward to that, let us recap what went down during Round 11 last weekend.

Van Gisbergen seals his second title

Perhaps the biggest news from this last weekend was that for a second time in his career (having been Champion in 2016), Shane van Gisbergen is a Supercars Champion. After a dominant display of driving all year, a season where he won 14 races out of a possible 31 (Bathurst still to come), van Gisbergen acquired enough points over his teammate and nearest rival Jamie Whincup to crown him the Champion ahead of the final round at Mount Panorama. This is the first drivers championship for the team since Jamie Whincup won his seventh and final championship in dramatic fashion in 2017.

This result was not surprising and is very well deserved, and also makes him the 14th driver in ATCC/Supercars history to claim two or more championships, and just the third New Zealander to do so after Scott McLaughlin and Jim Richards. It continues a run of form for our Kiwi friends who have won the championship five times out of the last six seasons.

This championship victory wasn’t the only trophy claimed over the weekend by van Gisbergen, with the Kiwi also winning the Sydney Cup, scoring the most points over the four weekends at Sydney Motorsport Park, earning both the trophy and the cool $25,000 cheque that came with it. It was won by 73 points over both Dick Johnson Racing’s Anton De Pasquale and Red Bull Ampol Racing’s Jamie Whincup, who were both tied on points.

Finally, Red Bull Ampol Racing Team (otherwise known as Triple Eight Race Engineering) won their 10th Supercars Team Championship for the first time since 2018, putting them back in garage #1 in the pit lane for 2022. With van Gisbergen’s win for this season, the #1 will likely be missing again from the grid next year due to van Gisbergen preferring to run his usual #97 on his car as he did in 2017. The #1 has been absent since Whincup ran it in 2018 with Scott McLaughlin keeping the famed #17 throughout his time as reigning champion from 2019 and 2020.

Red Bull Ampol Racing Team head to Bathurst on the back of claiming lots and lots of silverware, claiming both Drivers and Teams Championships during Round 11 of the 2021 Supercars Championship. Photo: Supercars.

Saturday action

The final night race of the year and the first (and only as it would turn out) endurance race of the year was a nail biter as a mixture of hard tyres, super soft tyres and the weather all combined to make it a thriller. The 64 lap race went down to the wire, and 10 laps out, I had no idea who would pull it off.

After the misery of the last three weeks, Cameron Waters in his Tickford Mustang finally had a car that could run up front, as did both the Erebus cars of Will Brown and Brodie Kostecki, Walkinshaw Andretti United’s Chaz Mostert and both the Red Bull’s of van Gisbergen and Whincup.

But in the chaos of the rain, the worn out hard tyres at the front and the grippier super soft tyres chasing, van Gisbergen one again rose to the top and took the win after seemingly being out of contention early in the race. Whincup would finish second and Waters after a torrid time at Eastern Creek over the last three rounds finished a well-earned third place.

This race showed the talent of Shane van Gisbergen. That statement however could be said for all 30 races completed this year for the Kiwi, testament of how 2021 has gone overall. Lap after lap, van Gisbergen was able to climb up the order, pass car after car and kept it clean. 64 laps is a challenge, it was the first endurance race of the season after all, and this race proved why van Gisbergen is a worthy champion.

The Sunday washout

Sunday at Sydney Motorsport Park could be summed up with three words… it was wet. There were plenty of big incidents in the support categories throughout the day, especially seen in the Super2 race which was red flagged after Matt Payne on his Super2 debut found out just how hard the Eastern Creek track can bite when you go off at turn one. Even seven-time champion went off in a big way in qualifying, showing that anyone can be caught out in those conditions.

All of the support races on Sunday were declared and finished under the Safety Car, and Supercars unfortunately didn’t even get to race at all. The field was led away from the grid by the Safety Car, but after a few laps it was clear that no racing was going to take place. The race was red flagged and ultimately declared a non-event, and was a disappointing end to the weekend and the time overall spent racing around at Sydney Motorsport Park.

There was one takeaway however from this final race, if you can call it a race. It was a huge moment for Brad Jones Racing, scoring a pole position. Not only was it a pole, but it was also the first pole position for Brad Jones Racing in a shootout since Jason Richards achieved pole at Hidden Valley way back in 2009. Both Percat and teammate Todd Hazelwood are quick at the end of this long season, which is handy considering the next race track we are heading to round off the 2021 season.

Onto The Great Race

What’s next on the schedule? Well, there is just one race left for the year and it is finally time to head to Mount Panorama for the Bathurst 1000. That’s right, our Grand Final for the year, ‘The Great Race’. Now that both championships have been decided, it is foot to the floor for all teams where all teams will be battling for the Peter Brock Trophy once again.

The field of drivers will double and compared to last years field, it has changed massively. Only four drivers out of a possible 50 from last year will be paired up with the same co-driver from last year – the two Red Bull cars – reigning Bathurst champions van Gisbergen and Garth Tander, and Whincup and Craig Lowndes.

The field will be one car bigger this year with Broc Feeney teaming with two-time Bathurst winner Russell Ingall in a Supercheap Auto backed Commodore run out of the Triple Eight camp. Keep an eye out for that one, could be a bit of a Darkhorse. You never know, you just have to be there at the end and you are in with a shout of victory and a place in the record books forever.

Action for the Bathurst 1000 will begin on Tuesday the 30th of November with the Great Race concluding Sunday the 5th of December.

We are almost there. I can’t wait.

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