With every driver keen to set early markers for the season ahead, who stood out and who fell flat in the season-opening 2018 Adelaide 500..? We reflect on the winners and losers from the 2018 season opener…
After over 90 days of waiting, the Supercars field spent their first weekend back at work proper in last weekend’s 2018 Adelaide 500.
As the South Australian capital celebrated its 20th year of hosting the traditional season-opening Supercars round, it was business as usual throughout the pack as the familiar faces starred, though some left the city of churches praying for better results to come over the rest of the year.
While it was one man who dominated the weekend when you look at the results, the unfolding plot throughout the two 250km races showed that this year will be more than just a walk in the park for the title favourites.
- Shane Van Gisbergen became the unofficial mayor of Adelaide this weekend, putting on yet another clinically fast performance for the second year running to clean sweep the round. In similar fashion to 2017, the 2016 series champion took both poles and race wins on offer across the two days of racing, opening his title bid with a perfect 300. While it could be down to luck in the second race that his rivals fell by the wayside, nothing can take away from the fact that he heads to the Grand Prix with the maximum number of points in his pocket. Van Gisbergen may have faded away after the first round last year but his knowledge of the new car and overall race craft means he will always be at the pointy end.
- David Reynolds proved himself as the best of the rest in the season’s opening two races, yet again showing why he is considered the dark horse that could challenge for this year’s title. The Erebus driver and reigning Bathurst 1000 champion took the fight to the bigger teams as he has done so many times in the last two seasons, finishing fourth and second in the two opening races of the year. He could have ended van Gisbergen’s stranglehold on Adelaide when he rejoined from the final round of stops in first though not defending his place well enough at turn nine, allowing the Kiwi through. If his performances over the weekend and last year are anything to go by, we can expect Reynolds to throw his hat in to the mix for the 2018 championship.
- James Courtney leaves the first round of the championship in an unexpected third place in the Supercars championship standings after putting in two strong drives in Adelaide. Previously a race winner here, Courtney was looking to put a horrid 2017 behind him where his only top five finishes were at the Parklands Circuit. Second in race one and sixth in race two, despite being hounded by Craig Lowndes in the latter stages, was more than he or his “new” Walkinshaw Andretti United team could have hoped for. The big question will be whether he can keep up the momentum for the rest of the season or if the pace drops off as much as last season.
- Jamie Whincup entered the weekend with his spring in his step after reclaiming the #1 on his car for the first time since 2015 however the bid for an 8th title got off to a rocky start after a horrid weekend. Sixth was the best he could manage in race one, the lowest moment of the day coming when he was accidentally turned by Reynolds at the turn nine hairpin. Sunday’s affair seemed to be off to a great start, taking the lead and legging it down the road before a driveline failure took him out of the race and siphoned a possible 150 points away from his championship aspirations. However, the showing of speed from the new ZB Commodore and his experience in winning races means he won’t be far away from the front from now on.
- Scott McLaughlin looked like he was going to be on for a strong points haul in the opening round of the year as he entered Adelaide wanting to put the heartbreak of Newcastle behind him. Third was good enough in the opening race though he struggled and couldn’t realistically make a challenge for the win. Race two looked like it was going to end in another podium result, hounding van Gisbergen for second until he slowed thanks to a puncture, dropping him way down the order. Adding insult to injury, Whincup’s DNF came only a handful of laps later, meaning the Kiwi could’ve been on track to win. A strong drive on fresher tyres at the finish allowed him to drag the #17 machine up to tenth at the chequered flag but it’ll hopefully be one of the rare bad days this year if he wants another shot at a maiden championship.
- Fabian Coulthard will be leaving Adelaide with a bit less hair after scratching his head so much due to the absolute lack of pace in the first round. A title contender last year, Coulthard had every reason to be optimistic in Adelaide given his consistency last year despite missing out on the championship. However, poor qualifying for both races and a total absence of race pace equally woeful results which would have been expected from the rookie drivers or those in underfunded efforts. A dismal 21st place in race one made 16th in race two seemed like an achievement in comparison though being passed by his team-mate who had to take an extra stop would’ve hurt. If Coulthard and his side of the garage can’t get their act together soon, DJR Team Penske may have to say goodbye to garages one and two by season’s end.
Next up is a fresh start at an underappreciated favourite: the first championship Supercars round at the Australian Grand Prix – the Melbourne 400. Acting as a support category again to the Formula One circus, it will be the first time in ATCC/Supercars history that the premier Australian category will be racing for points at the international event.