Motorsport

Motorsport Monday: Newcastle Supercars

Ah Garry Rogers, we will miss you.


Supercars: The Newcastle 500

Track: Newcastle Street Circuit


So, the last round of the season, the last time we’ll ever see of Nissan in the ATCC, the last we’ll see of Simona De Silvestro before she heads off to join Porsche’s Formula E team, the last time several other drivers will feature for their teams, such as James Courney leaving Walkinshaw after 9 years, teammate Scott Pye after 3, and Chaz Mostert departing Tickford after 6 seasons- Most likely to replace one of them at WAU.

And, as we’ve known for well over a month now, it was the the last round for Garry Rogers Motorsport after 24 seasons in the Supercars field, full of memorable moments like a Bathurst win in 2000, birthing many champions and race winners along the way, but for me, it’s hard to top Scotty giving it some jandal to knock off Jamie Whincup in Adelaide in 2014.

As if the crap about car No.17 wasn’t done, the grid’s resident Scottys had a chat on the old Instagram, with Scotty Pye whipping out the sporting equivalent of Godwin’s to describe McLaughlin’s title in 2019.

THE LANCE ARMSTRONG COMPARISON.

The Karma Bus came around to pick up Private Pye-le, as he went to hospital with gastro on Friday, then came back and drove during Saturday qualifying, and ended up in the fence.

Seriously, comparing what was a minor technical breach, to the arsehole who ran one of the most sophisticated doping programs west of the Berlin Wall?

Saturday

Qualifying margins have typically been close in Newcastle in its short history, and this was no exception, with the Top 17 cars being separated by half a second.

Just when things looked bleak, Shane Van Gisbergen scraped into the Shootout on his last lap to go 10th, sending him out first for the one lap dash, and he set a lazy 1.10.1, which was faster than Whincup’s time to top Qualifying!

McLaughlin looked set to beat the time after a strong opening 2 sectors, but a bad Turn 11 cost him a tenth, and he missed Gizzy’s time by 6 hundreths!

Everyone else fell short, Whincup had a wild final lap and ended up 3rd, and Van Gisbergen became the first driver in a decade to run first in a shootout and claim pole!

Race 31 (95 laps)

In the milestone department, this race was also Mark Winterbottom’s 500th race start.

When the lights went out, McLaughlin did head Van Gisbergen into Turn 1, but the Red Bull had the inside line and hung Scotty out wide, allowing Whincup to get the run through to 2nd, and further back, Jack Le Brocq was smacked by James Golding, severly damaging the Tekno car and running him out of business.

With the first 8 cars on the track all within a car length of each other in the opening laps, McLaughlin was called in on Lap 8 to eliminate the threat of a double stack with Coulthard, and to get him into clear air on track.

Thus, the great strategic battle of wits between T8 and DJR began, as McLaughlin was setting fastest laps, soon being joined by David Reynolds, who also stopped early, and strangely enough, those who did pit early all had issues with wheel nuts in pit lane, but fortunately, none of them lost time thanks to being covered by fuel.

The Red Bulls stayed out and showed very consistent pace, while the lead cars who pitted were all starting to match them, but spacing out stops proved to be the correct strategy, simply due to time saved in the pits.

Whincup came in on Lap 17 and took on more fuel than the other front-runners, leading to him emerging behind McLaughlin, but with a tyre and fuel advantage.

The race settled down after that, with T8 keeping Gizzy out until well past 1/3 distance, as he began encountering traffic, and around this time there was smoke coming out the back of Anton De Pasquale’s Commodore, which turned out to be some kind of power steering failure, finishing off his chances of a Top 10 finish, although he did get back out there some 3 laps down.

Giz pitted on Lap 33, and emerged behind both Whincup and McLaughlin, Winterbottom and Davison pitted a lap later, leaving Coulthard as the last driver to stop, which he did on Lap 36, handing the lead to his teammate.

Still, despite their different strategies, the Top 6 cars had very similar outright pace, only being decided by a tenth of a second per lap.

On Lap 42, there was more midfield action, as Macauley Jones tagged Golding into the fence at the final corner and sent him spinning into the wall, damaging the rear wing.

A lap later, Whincup let the quicker Van Gisbergen through to attack McLaughlin, and see if he could find a way past the Shell Ford on a track that is very difficult to pass at, but even with Scotty’s old tyres, it was as you were, and the race leader reached the critical Lap 49 for fuel to the end of the race, and he would have to take on about 28 seconds worth of fuel, which would drop him to 3rd.

Waters and Reynolds were having a good fight for 4th, with Reynolds narrowly staying ahead in the pits on Lap 50 after a 40 km/h drag race, and McLaughlin pitted the next lap, which Red Bull responded to by bringing Whincup in, and taking on less fuel, he was comfortably ahead of the DJR-Penske.

Van Gisbergen pitted on Lap 64 and emerged with a clear lead, and the order was eventually settled, with the Red Bulls 1-2, and the DJR Penske cars 3-4.

In the meantime, a collier appeared, and the race descended into a discussion about technical details about shipping coal.

Apparently the number was 20,000 tons, which is only slightly less than the amount of crap I can export in each of my articles.

Discussion about container ships ensued until Lap 75, when Whincup locked up and went down the escape road at Turn 1, and from a comfortable Red Bull 1-2, he had dropped to 7th and barely holding off Tim Slade, which had big implications for the teams championship, as the margin on track went from 77 points to 137 points the way of DJR-Penske!

All Copyrights: Supercars/Fox Sports

Gizzy now had a 10 second lead to McLaughlin and Coulthard, and the 2016 champ passed the 2000 laps led milestone for his career, which would grow by a few dozen more, as he powered to the chequered flag.

By Lap 88, Whincup was hot on the rear of Courtney, but he found himself ambushed by the other WAU car of Scott Pye, who mugged him at Turn 8, and then did the same to James next lap, who barely held off Whincup in the process, although Jamie also had to be weary of Slade, still immediately behind him.

So it was fairly elementary stuff for Van Gisbergen, winning by 10.5 seconds to McLaughlin and Coulthard (His first podium since Townsville) in 2nd and 3rd, which gave DJR a huge advantage in the Teams battle, with Dave Reynolds in 4th, and Cam Waters 5th in the Green Eyed Mustang.

Pye was the performance of the race, starting from dead last and finishing 6th with the best race pace of anyone on track, Courtney beat off Whincup for 7th to deliver another double Top 10 for WAU, and Whincup did indeed hold off Slade for 8th and 9th respectively.

Advantage DJR Penske, as they led by 143 points with Sunday to come!

Sunday

The Fox Sports coverage on Sunday gave us another classic Mark Larkham moment, as Larko managed to drop a shock absorber on his iPad, smashing the screen.

When Qualifying began, blocking at Turn 11 was once again a big problem, as Nick Percat locked up just to miss a slow Will Davison, and then Nick managed to make a dick of himself by attempting a flick spin, and punching out one his tail lights against a tyre barrier.

Davison was docked 3 places and dropped to 20th, and joining him in the blocking penalty department was none other than The Giz, who was ironically cited for blocking Davison, dropping the Kiwi to 21st after a dour qualifying, and GRM’s James Golding was cited for blocking Chaz Mostert at Turn 12.

The times were slightly down on Saturday, and come the shootout, it would be Jamie Whincup who took the last pole of 2019 to beat Cam Waters, with Coulthard and McLaughlin clearing out the 2nd row (Fabs was ahead by a mere 2-thousandths), as Courtney and Pye got into the Top 10, ahead of their last race for the Walkinshaw crew.

Race 32 (95 Laps)

12 drivers were driving their last race for their respective teams, it was the last race for Nissan, and the last race for Garry Rogers Motorsport in Supercars, and Gazza celebrated the occasion with one last dress-up in his Sunday best.

Terence Stamp was straight on the phone asking for his costume back.

At the start, the leaders all jumped cleanly, but there was chaos in the midpack at Turn 1, with Dave Reynolds making light contact with Pye, resulting in Reynolds hitting the tyre wall, and poor Lee Holdsworth simply had nowhere to go. resulting in heavy damage to the front right of the Bottle-O Tickford, and puncturing the left rear of the Erebus and causing some very noticeable cosmetic damage to the KISS livery.

Reynolds was able to get back out on the lead lap, while Holdsworth got going again with a machine resembling the result of 10 minutes of carnage on Grand Theft Auto, some 3 laps down.

Unsurprisingly, car No.5 was shown the mechanical black flag, and despite the more favourable option being taking a shower and getting stuck into a few tinnies, Tickford decided to carry on and scram a few points, given Lee was probably going to swap places with Nick Percat in 9th and 10th on the final standings.

Van Gisbergen had made up 5 places in the early laps, while Tickford pitted Waters early on Lap 6 to get out of sequence, which turned the lead of the race into a fight between Whincup and the DJR Penske boys, as most of the action on track was between Gizzy and any poor bastard that stood in his way.

McLaughlin was called in on Lap 16, as they searched for an undercut on Whincup, and he emerged behind Waters.

Gizzy continued his charge, passing Stanaway for 12th on Lap 20, but on Lap 24, the biggest incident of the race occurred when Anton De Pasquale emerged from the pits narrowly in front of a red hot Courtney, who got up the inside at Turn 2/3, but as they went downhill, the cars interlocked wheels, and De Pasquale was speared into the fence, destroying the steering on No.99, simultaneously causing a right rear puncture for No.22, and Anton would ultimately end up in the tyre wall outside the Surf Club.

I think my Uncle Matty was watching the action somewhere around there on Sunday.

Courtney was far enough alongside, Anton didn’t yield, so it really was a racing incident (And good on Craig Baird for getting that right), and the stricken Erebus brought out what was the only Safety Car of the weekend, and once the pit stops were sorted, Waters led from McLaughlin, and Whincup was 3rd from Coulthard, with Will Davison working up to 5th on an alternate strategy.

Given they had short filled, the SC worked out poorly for Waters and McLaughlin, who were due to take on 20 seconds of fuel, but now had next to no lead, throwing the advantage the way of Whincup and Coulthard.

Ironically, Courtney ended up getting penalised on the same lap, for an unsafe release into Mostert.

The race resumed on Lap 30, and Van Gisbergen locked up chasing Rick Kelly in 11th, which led to T8 making the call to bring him in and change to a 3-stop strategy, with the Giz in clear air down the order.

McLaughlin was soon challenging the rear of Waters by Lap 40, and the threat of the rain to the north was becoming very very real, with few drops starting to fall, as Race Control declared the track wet.

From Lap 40 of the race

Still though, it looked like Scott had the Teams Championship in mind, and with DJR Penske having both cars in the Top 5, he never made a serious move against the Green Eyed Mustang.

Waters pitted from the lead on Lap 50, really having no other option given he was bone dry for fuel, and having to take on 27 seconds worth of E85 finished off his chances of a podium.

That stop triggered a flurry of activity, with Whincup coming in, joined by Coulthard and Davison, and both T8 and DJR negated each other with sharp work, while McLaughlin came in on Lap 52 and emerged ahead of Waters, but in probably the performance of the race, Tim Slade (Who started 8th), played himself into podium contention with a good fuel strategy, emerging ahead of No.17.

Out in front, Pye and Mostert were playing themselves into contention as well with some very serious pace, setting up a very nice battle for 3rd place with 40 laps to go.

Pye pitted on Lap 58, but a slow connection with the fuel nozzle put him behind Slade and McLaughlin.

Mostert led until Lap 63, and he emerged behind Waters on younger tyres, and was immediately setting a hot pace, while further down the order, one of the more bizzare moments occurred when Rick Kelly missed out on reaching his 140L fuel intake by, get this…

1 millilitre.

Van Gisbergen was now leading from Courtney, who made his 5th and final visit through the lane on Lap 68, and Mostert was all over the back of the Green Eyed Monster Mustang, and he made Tim Edwards shit himself with a huge dive at Turn 2, but thankfully, Waters went safety first and yielded the place, preventing another case of Tickford cars killing each other.

A few seconds later, Golding hit the wall at Turn 2, which sparked fears of a Safety Car, but he was able to reverse out and keep going.

On Lap 72, Pye had ranged up to the rear of the podium fight between McLaughlin, Slade and Coulthard, and Van Gisbergen was the last driver to make a scheduled stop on Lap 78, dropping him behind Percat into 10th, and setting up a 16 lap charge to the finish.

Shane made the pass at Turn 8 on Lap 83, then claimed Todd Hazlewood a lap later to jump to 8th, and he was soon mowing down Waters in 7th, as the race ticked below 10 laps to go.

But just as I thought that, the 2 hour time limit for the race was coming in to play, meaning the distance was probably going to be shortened to 92 laps- It ended being 93.

Just think, it only took one safety car for that to play out….. which is a bit of a worry.

As another container ship left Newcastle with 5 laps remaining, Slade had beaten off McLaughlin, who was looking comfortable with 4th place, Pye couldn’t find a way past the Mustang, and Van Gisbergen was giving a cavity search to Waters after mowing him down at a second per lap, and the pair had a massive fight down Nobby’s Road, and despite Waters getting the elbows out and hitting Shane’s backside on the exit of Turn 11, The Giz got the job done and confirmed a 7th place finish.

Time ran out at 6:13, and Whincup started the 93rd and last lap, and strolled home to round out the 2019 season with his 118th career win, Coulthard took 2nd and won the round on points, Slade took his first podium since Albert Park, on what was his last drive for Brad Jones Racing, McLaughlin finished 4th to confirm DJR-Penske’s Teams Championship victory, Pye was 5th in his farewell to WAU, Mostert was 6th in his last Tickford race, and Gizzy was 7th, ahead of Waters, who got a Safety Car when he needed it least.

In other noteworthy performances, Courtney recovered to 11th in an emotional farewell to the Walkinshaw crew, and Simona finished in 18th on the lead lap, in her last race before she ventures back to Europe.

Scotty could finally celebrate his epic record-breaking season, and just as he did in 2018, destroyed the Newcastle sign with some massive doughies, which utterly destroyed the right rear down to the rim.

I’m surprised the Newcastle fuzz didn’t book him for a blatant display of hooning, but I suppose they’ve got more pressing matters, like keeping Matthew Johns out of the Hunter.

Still though, the last shock of the year though was reserved for Richie Stanaway, who blindsided everyone by announcing that he wasn’t just done with Supercars after a tough season- He was done with motorsport all together, at the age of 28!

It did go to shit pretty quickly for Richie, but he had some magnificent moments- Winning twice in the old GP2 series in 2015, when it was the feeder series to Formula One, and then pretty much carrying Cam Waters to a Sandown 500 win in 2017, despite only driving part time in Super2 that season.

When Boost Mobile took GRM out, I didn’t think they were going to take Richie as well.

The End Of The Year

And thus, Ford end the decade with a Triple Crown- The Manufacturers’ title (Which they won back in July), DJR-Penske winning the Teams’ title, and Scotty utterly crushing all in his path to take another Drivers’ title.

That Mustang was so damn good, that the Opel crew had to piss and whinge for parity adjustments just to have any hope of beating them, because they sure as hell couldn’t win a straight fight.

What a year for the Penske side of the operation- The Captain buys the IndyCar series and The Brickyard itself, Josef Newgarden wins the IndyCar title, Simon Pagenaud wins the Indianapolis 500, and Scotty does his thing here.

I think it’s almost a certainty that at some point, Scotty will follow in the footsteps of Marcos Ambrose, and go and give NASCAR a crack.

With the season done, the fun and games began, as Tickford taped up and shipped Chaz Mostert on a trolley down to Walkinshaw Andretti United, officially making him their problem, even though he hasn’t been officially confirmed as being WAU’s problem.

Here’s a completely true fact about Chaz, as he departs the Blue Oval- He was the only driver outside of the DJR-Penske and Red Bull drivers to win a race in 2019.

Race 5 in Melbourne, after Scotty was taken out on the formation lap by Cam Waters.


Final Standings

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