No matter manner you take a look at it, 2018 was one other thrilling season for the Supercars, with the primary evening race in Australia for 20 years, a legend of the game saluting for one final time in Bathurst and, for the second yr operating, a season finale that went right down to the wire.
Jamie Whincup entered the brand new season because the defending champion, having gained a document seventh Supercars title in dramatic circumstances after Scott McLaughlin was pinged for a driving infringement within the ultimate race of the 2017 season in Newcastle.
The season began with 2016 champion Shane van Gisbergen taking out each races on the Adelaide 500, as he did in 2017. This made it 4 consecutive wins on the Adelaide Avenue Circuit for the 29-year-old Kiwi.
Later in March, the Melbourne 400 grew to become an official championship occasion, held as a curtain-raiser to the Australian Components One Grand Prix. Scott McLaughlin, Jamie Whincup, Scott Pye and David Reynolds every claimed a victory throughout the 4 races held.
Whereas most, if not all, of Australia had their minds mounted on the Commonwealth Video games being held on the Gold Coast, over 2000 kilometres south in Tasmania Craig Lowndes was capable of rating his first podium end for 2 years after having endured a winless 2017 season by which he completed no greater than fourth in any accomplished race.
Jamie Whincup took out the Saturday race after qualifying second-fastest earlier than Lowndes claimed his first race win since Ipswich in July 2016 on the Sunday.
A fortnight later Scott McLaughlin utterly dominated Phillip Island, clean-sweeping the weekend after qualifying quickest and recording the quickest lap on his technique to successful each the Saturday and Sunday races. He then made it 4 consecutive victories after successful each races in Perth the next month.
On the Winton SuperSprint McLaughlin certified quickest to say pole place for each races, nevertheless it was Rick Kelly and Fabian Coulthard who claimed the Saturday and Sunday races respectively to finish the 25-year-old’s successful streak at 4.
McLaughlin then hit again with a win within the Saturday race in Darwin earlier than ending second to David Reynolds within the Sunday race by a margin of 1.6 seconds.
The Townsville 400 was dominated by Purple Bull Holden, with Jamie Whincup claiming the Saturday race and Shane van Gisbergen the Sunday race. In Ipswich a couple of weeks later Kiwi rivals McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen gained the Saturday and Sunday races respectively.
August noticed the return of evening racing to the Supercars calendar for the primary time in eight years, with Jap Creek enjoying host to the primary evening race since Abu Dhabi hosted the 2010 season opener and the primary in Australia since 1997.
The race itself noticed McLaughlin qualify quickest, nevertheless it was his compatriot, Shane van Gisbergen, who took prime honours, together with his Purple Bull Holden teammate Whincup ending second. McLaughlin rounded out the rostrum whereas Craig Lowndes, who gained the Sydney evening race in 1996, completed fourth.
Though this spherical proved to be an enormous success, with over 30,000 spectators attending – outdrawing two NRL matches and one Tremendous Netball match on the identical day – in addition to being voted the most well-liked Supercars occasion by the followers, the occasion has been not noted of the 2019 Supercars calendar, with a view of holding it early within the 2020 season, nicely away from the winter months.
Its exclusion from subsequent yr’s schedule means there will probably be no Supercars occasions held in metropolitan Sydney in 2019, following the closure of the Oran Park Raceway in 2010 and the current axing of the Homebush-based Sydney 500.
It additionally means the Bathurst 1000 will probably be first of solely two occasions – the opposite being the season-ending Newcastle 500 – to be held in New South Wales for the entire yr.
August additionally noticed the debut of a brand new highway circuit at The Bend Motorsport Park, 100 kilometres east of Adelaide. Van Gisbergen made historical past by changing into the primary driver to win a Supercars race on the circuit with victory on Saturday, notching up his fifth consecutive race win in South Australia within the course of, whereas Jamie Whincup claimed the Sunday race to make it an ideal weekend for Purple Bull Holden.
The primary of the endurance races noticed Whincup staff up with Paul Dumbrell to take out the Sandown 500, whereas three weeks later, in Bathurst, Craig Lowndes partnered Steven Richards to beat Mount Panorama as soon as once more, with final yr’s winner, David Reynolds, faltering mid-race and being pressured to retire resulting from cramping.
On the Gold Coast Chaz Mostert and James Moffat teamed as much as win the Saturday race earlier than the Sunday race was deserted with lower than half the variety of laps accomplished resulting from a thunderstorm that rendered racing unsafe.
The penultimate spherical of the season in Auckland noticed home-town rivals Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin every rating a race win on Saturday and Sunday respectively, thus setting the scene for a probably explosive season finale between the 2 Kiwis in Newcastle three weeks later.
McLaughlin was out to bury the demons of final yr’s heartbreaking title loss by which a driving infringement involving Craig Lowndes noticed him cop a post-race drive-through penalty, handing the championship to Jamie Whincup.
Van Gisbergen appeared to have decreased the margin between him and the 25-year-old to simply two factors when he took out the Saturday race after overtaking his compatriot within the ultimate lap of the race, setting the scene for a winner-takes-all affair on Sunday.
Nevertheless, he would get up on Sunday morning to search out that his race win was rendered invalid resulting from a pit lane infringement – his automobile had been lowered earlier than the refuelling hose had been faraway from his engine.
This noticed McLaughlin’s lead within the championship balloon out to 53 factors, that means all he needed to do was end sixth or greater to say his first title and bury the demons of 2017 as soon as and for all.
Ultimately the 25-year-old completed second behind David Reynolds after being overtaken within the ultimate laps of the race. In doing so he capped off his season of redemption with a well-deserved maiden Supercars championship.
One must surprise how the second race would’ve unfolded had the unique end result on Saturday stood and whether or not the following penalty may’ve affected Van Gisbergen’s mindset on Sunday.
However ultimately the 2016 champion paid the worth for abysmal driving within the ultimate race of the season, ending fourth within the race and second general within the standings, behind McLaughlin and forward of Whincup and Craig Lowndes.
For all of the emotion surrounding his retirement from full-time racing, Lowndes endured a reasonably forgettable farewell spherical, ending 23rd after blowing up throughout a pit-stop on Saturday after which simply ending exterior the highest ten on Sunday.
Elsewhere Simona de Silvestro achieved her greatest end in a Supercars race, ending tenth on the Saturday race and 23rd within the general standings.
And with one other Supercars season raced and gained, the main target now turns to 2019 by which there are a number of modifications to the calendar, together with, amongst others:
- the aforementioned rather-controversial omission of the Sydney spherical;
- the swapping of locations of the Auckland and Sandown occasions in order to keep away from a conflict with the NRL and AFL finals in September; and
- the reformatting of the Perth spherical by which the primary race will probably be at evening.
The 2019 season begins with the Adelaide 500 on the primary weekend of March.