Four different drivers stood atop the podium across the four Melbourne 400 races, but who starred and who stalled chasing championship points at Albert Park for the first time…
The first ever championship round at Albert Park can definitely be classed a success, but it proved to be a weekend of mixed results in the drivers’ championship. While some struggled, a few new faces popped up at the front of the Melbourne 400 field and tossed their hat in the ring as ones to watch for the rest of the championship season. The typically changeable Melbourne weather, a high degradation track surface as well as races of differing lengths also played their part in putting on a great show for the crowd across 400km of racing.
- Jamie Whincup put an average Adelaide outing behind him to take the round win at the first Melbourne round held for points. The defending series champion started from pole in two out of the four races, winning Saturday’s sprint race and standing on the podium in every outing. His consistency gave him the round win and with it the first Larry Perkins Trophy, adding yet another piece of silverware to his already impressive cabinet. The successful weekend moves him in to sixth in the championship standings, only 107 points behind the lead.
- Scott Pye had a standout weekend in Melbourne, proving his worth against higher rated drivers in treacherous conditions to give him and his Walkinshaw Andretti United team a breakthrough victory. In the Saturday evening race, he inherited the lead and held off Jamie Whincup as the rain came down, the pair both stuck on slick tyres. It was Pye’s first race win in Supercars, beating his previous best result of second at Bathurst last year with Warren Luff. The win, as well as consistent results over the four Melbourne 400 races, moves him in to fifth in the points, 87 shy of the top.
- Nick Percat put in his best drive at Brad Jones Racing yet, taking only his second podium for the Albury-based outfit. After two promising practice sessions, strong qualifying efforts secured ninth, fifth, second and third place starts across the four races. While the opening races netted good but not great results (ninth and seventh), the Saturday evening race in the wet saw Percat take third, closely following Whincup and Pye to the flag. Sunday then saw him harass the back of David Reynolds, the eventual race-winner, putting the 29-year-old in good stead heading to Tasmania.
- James Courtney failed to succeed in a round where his lesser-known team-mate starred, only taking one top ten finish while dropping points in the standings. In the crazy round finale where anyone could have scored well, Courtney capitalised to take fifth, but this was a minor success compared to the poor results in the other races of the weekend. The opening race only netted 12th which then became 20th in the second and a DNF in the third although this wasn’t his doing, being spun early on in the race. Surprisingly, he still sits seventh in the championship standings, but now enters the part of the year where he has previously struggled, moving away from street circuits which is the 2010 champion’s speciality.
- Richie Stanaway has so far had one of the worst starts to a career from such a promising premise. The 2017 Sandown 500 winner finished no better than 18th across the weekend, suffering a majority of shocking races which have put him behind the eight-ball, and most other drivers so far this year. 24th, 25th, 25th and 18th are the mark of a pay-driver, not someone who boasts international experience and the results which Stanaway has enjoyed in the past. Currently last in the standings, he’ll need to turn his luck around to be the best of the rookies this year.
- Rick Kelly came in to the Melbourne 400 round with positivity that the Nissan squad could make inroads, some of their Altima’s fitted with composite panels to combat the ZB Commodore. For the team leader, the weekend couldn’t be more average, not finishing in the top ten and recording a second DNF against his name this season. 13th was the best he could muster in Saturday’s sprint race while the two long races saw him finish 17th in each outing. Now sitting 19th in the standings, Kelly will need to improve as the team leader of Nissan in what is set to be a make or break season for the Nissan factory team.