The first Motorsport Monday report for 2020.
We’re back… baby.
Supercars: The Adelaide 500
After a wild couple of months, the Supercars season is back, with 2020 marking the 60th anniversary of the Australian Touring Car Championship, and with Nissan ending the expansion era, it’s back to the classic Holden-Ford war that lasted from 1993-2012, although for how much longer, we don’t know.
Most of Australia was still reeling, crying, or possibly even laughing, at the announcement from GM last Monday that Holden was getting the lethal injection.
Depending on who you ask, they got it years ago, and it’s just Opel in Holden’s clothing.
Anyway, a few driver & team changes for this season:
Chaz Mostert jumped from Ford to Holden with Walkinshaw, joined by 2019 Super2 champion Bryce Fullwood.
They replaced James Courtney, who moved to the exapnded Team Sydney (Tekno Autosport) alongside the returning Chris Pither, and Scott Pye moved to the expanded Charlie Schwerkolt Racing alongside Frosty Winterbottom.
Jack Le Brocq went from Tekno to Mostert’s very warm seat at Tickford Racing.
Kelly Racing dropped to 2 cars (Rick Kelly & Andre Heimgartner) and switched to Mustangs, sparking the extremely weird scene of Rick Kelly driving a Ford.
Matt Stone Racing expanded to 2 cars thanks Garry Rogers departing, with rookies Zane Goddard and Jake Kostecki sharing Car #34, and Garry Jacobson moved from the downsized Kelly team to drive #35.
Todd Hazelwood left the Stones and joined the expanded Brad Jones Racing, which is officially a 3 car team, with rookie Jack Smith (Who never claimed a Super2 podium) joining Hazelwood and Nick Percat, and they still prepare the Tim Blanchard Racing car of Macauley Jones.
Anyway, I think that’s all.
Circuit: Adelaide Street Circuit/ Parklands
This year also marked 35 years since motorsport first came to the streets of Adelaide for the inaugural Australian Grand Prix, and for that matter, 25 years since the Australian Grand Prix was last staged there… before it was ripped away by those dirty Mexicans east of Horsham.
Apparently the Croweaters haven’t forgotten.
Qualifying – Race 1
Qualifying has changed for 2020, apparently following a similar model to MotoGP – The 10 fastest drivers from Practice 3 go straight through to Q2, the Top 4 from Q1 go through to Q2, and the Shootout remains the same.
24 degree temperatures played a part in some searingly good times in qualifying, and after a spin wrecked a potential fastest time, Jamie Whincup only qualified 9th for the shootout, but he turned the tables with a 1.19.4793, which managed to stand through 8 more drivers, barely scraping in ahead of David Reynolds (By 4-thousandths) and Will Davison (1-hundreth) – And barely is putting it lightly.
In a sign of the early parity, the first 5 cars were all within a tenth of a second of Whincup’s time, and Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin were only good for 6th and 7th.
His 8th pole position on the streets of Adelaide, breaking the tie with Gizzy – It lasted all of 1 day.
Race 1 (78 Laps)
Before the race began, rookie Jack Smith began his main game career on a superb note – He was given community service and a suspended fine for missing the drivers’ photo on Friday.
What difference would appearing in the photo make – Nobody knows what he looks like anyway.
Anyway, when the lights went out, Whincup took the early lead from Reynolds, while local hero Nick Percat (Who re-signed with BJR) was the first victim of the season, getting caught in the early bumping duels, which damaged his steering rack and left him unable to turn hard right.
BJR managed to repair the car and send him back out, which couldn’t be said for Garry Jacobson, hitting the wall hard at Turn 8, and finishing off his day after 5 laps.
Starting down in 7th, McLaughlin pitted the earliest of the Top 10 on Lap 7, simply to get himself into clear air, something we rarely ever see DJR-Penske do with the Champ, but it would prove effective in getting him into the podium positions.
As the field pitted at various times, the only major accident of the race was James Courtney, who slammed into the notorious Turn 8 for at least the 4th time in his career (2006, 2012, 2016) on Lap 17, destroying the steering on Car #19, and Team Sydney retired the car.
Amazing – Only slightly off-line chasing Andre Heimgartner, and he became an afternoon snack for one of the more notorious corners in Supercars.
While McLaughlin led the middle stages of the race, he would have to take on more fuel during his final stop, which meant Whincup was effectively in a comfortable lead, and Scotty would re-emerge in a dogfight for 2nd with a red hot Shane van Gisbergen, as Reynolds raced in a lonely 4th.
Around this time, Jack Smith (Who copped a drive through for ignoring blue flags) managed to make an arse of himself once again, arriving into the pit lane too hot in front of The Giz, locking up and skating out the other side onto the track.
I recall Todd Kelly did the same thing in 2005, although it would’ve been fitting if he’d slammed straight into the wall, ala David Coulthard in 1995.
The highlight of the race was the duel between Davison and Mostert for 5th, which started during the early laps, and reignited following the final round of stops, involving some excellent side by side racing up the Barry Sheene Straight.
Davo won that scrap, which also allowed Cam Waters to range up to Mostert, and reignite the former Tickford rivalry that always ended with Tim Edwards losing patches of hair.
Despite Waters tagging the right rear of Mostert in another hair raising moment, this fight didn’t end with one of them driving with 3 wheels, as the Monster Mustang passed the Walkinshaw Commodore for 6th.
After racing 2 laps down, Percat had to give up the ghost on Lap 70 (He was classified), and that was pretty much it – Whincup powered on to his 11th win in Adelaide (His 119th overall) from McLaughlin and The Giz, who simply couldn’t find a way past his compatriot, despite closing up to the Shell’s rear about 7 times.
A result the Holden faithful would’ve absolutely loved, and it coincided with Jamie and Shane confirming they were both staying with Red Bull T8 for 2021, driving some form of automotive with 4 wheels and an engine.
A few other notable performances were Mostert finishing 7th in his Holden debut, despite his feet copping searing heat throughout the race, and Rick Kelly and Andre Heimgartner finished in 9th and 11th in their Mustang debuts, a result they’d take every day of the week.
Qualifying – Race 2
In hotter conditions than yesterday (Around 30 degrees), Jack Smith became the latest Turn 8 victim in a fairly heavy impact that destroyed most of the suspension, but he dodged major damage to the structure, and the car was fixed for the race.
Whincup qualified fastest for the shootout, but it was The Giz who set the early speed with a 1:19.8101.
Will Davison looked set to overtake The Giz after a cracking opening 2 sectors (Which ended up being the best of anyone), but he locked up into the last corner, and missed by 2-tenths.
McLaughlin missed out by 0.0383, Waters was in 3rd, and Whincup appeared set to hoard both poles for the weekend, but an error at Turn 11 dropped him to 7th, and The Giz took pole from Scotty, his 8th pole at the Adelaide Parklands, once again equalling his teammate’s record.
Hilarious – After there wasn’t a single Kiwi starting in the Top 5 yesterday, they hit back to lock out the front row.
Race 2 (78 Laps)
For the second day running, the penalties were being dished out before the race even began – Both Matt Stone Racing drivers (Zane Goddard & Garry Jacobson) were fined & given community service for missing the national anthem!
At the start, McLaughlin jumped van Gisbergen into the race lead, and it didn’t even take a full lap before the action exploded – Dave Reynolds spun his Erebus teammate Anton de Pasquale, causing Anton to get belted by oncoming traffic, specifically Scott Pye, putting them both out of the race, and bringing out the first Safety Car of the weekend.
Reynolds was given a drive through for the incident, but he carried on in the knowledge that he’d committed the cardinal sin of racing.
The Safety Car returned on Lap 12, when Chris Pither in the Coke Commodore reignited the glory days of Wayne Gardner, getting beached in the Turn 11 gravel, and for some reason, he retired there and then.
That triggered the first round of stops, where the Red Bull crew jumped the sleeping DJR Penske team to propel Giz into the lead, and in the chaotic stops, Rick Kelly was boxed in by Jack Smith, who had pulled in directly behind Macauley Jones and blocked the Mustang’s exit – It earned Smith a 15 second time penalty.
With his driving performance this week, Jacky wouldn’t look out of place in the Karawara parking lot.
Some absolute mongoloids drive around there, believe you me.
After starting in the Top 10, Kelly decided to make things even worse for himself, overtaking James Courtney at Turn 9 under yellow flags, earning a 15 second penalty of his own.
As the race restarted, the Kelly rampage continued when he and Garry Jacobson reunited, which ended with Ricko squeezing his former employee into the tyre wall.
Jacobson finished 6 laps down as a result of damage to his left hand side.
The tough weekend for the rookies continued, when Bryce Fullwood met the Turn 11 tyre barrier after getting a bit of help from Macauley Jones, which left both with damage that sent them down the order.
During the second round of stops on Lap 45, the moment that decided the race occurred – T8 didn’t get all of Gizzy’s fuel into Car #97, which, despite him comfortably regaining the lead, meant McLaughlin was effectively the race leader.
Greg Murphy did the maths in the pit lane, and you want to know what the difference was from 140L of fuel?
In another crazy pit lane moment for the front runners, on Lap 43, Cam Waters did a Jack Smith and overshot the pit entry, costing himself valuable time to Mostert, Davison and Whincup – He would recover.
After some classic aggressive driving, SVG pitted with 10 laps to go and dropped behind Mostert and Waters into 4th place, as Scotty took a 13 second lead in front, and barring an error, it was race over.
Compounding the pain for Triple 8, with 4 laps to go, Gizzy had steamed up to the back of Waters to reclaim a podium spot, but clipped the rear wheel of the Mustang, at which point the lower control arm on the Red Bull let go, and the Kiwi couldn’t even make it down the Brock Straight (Aka Bartels Road) before he was forced to retire.
A tough afternoon for Giz – Started on pole, he led 2/3 of the race, had pace that couldn’t be matched… but he had nothing to show for it except 150 points dropped to his main championship rival.
With no opposition in sight, McLaughlin won the race and the Adelaide 500 for 2020, 10 seconds ahead of Mostert with a superb 2nd, and the 2-time defending champ leaves the City Of Churches with the championship lead to begin the season, as Waters finished 3rd, and in a funny moment, played the role of Uber driver and gave Gizzy a lift back to the pits.
It led to this classic line from Cam in the press conference, referring moreso to the fact it was a Monster car picking up the Red Bull driver.
The Holden broke down and the Ford picked him up and saved the day, and the better energy drink had to pick up the other shitter one!
Customer Rating – 5 stars.
Fantastic drive by Mostert – 2nd in that pissrag of a Walkinshaw would give them hope, Waters with his first podium since Pukekohe last year, Davison finished 5th and 4th for the weekend, Holdsworth climbed up to 6th, and Nick Percat overcame yesterday’s wipeout to claim 7th.
Andre Heimgartner finished in 10th, giving both Kelly Mustangs Top 10 finishes for the weekend, which they’d be thrilled with in their first competitive hitout in the new car.
If you go back through the annals, the last time McLaughlin didn’t end a round with the Championship lead was Bathurst 2018.
It makes me wonder what someone like Jamie Whincup’s longest streak was as championship leader – Quite possibly from Bathurst 2008 to Queensland Raceway 2010, which would be a solid 23 rounds.
T8 had several theories for van Gisbergen’s control arm failure during the race, which were either related or separate issues.
The Giz couldn’t adjust his anti-rollbars for most of the race (Definitely didn’t help), the suspension + control arm had bent at some point before the 3rd stop, and he also (Apparently) radioed in that the new category-wide dampers had gone wrong, and the team were prepared to replace them in an extra stop.
It would add relevance to The Giz jokingly talking about “Hating life” driving with the new category-wide absorber (Combined with aero changes) back on Thursday.
Pedders – Complete bull.
Next Event: The Australian Grand Prix in 3 weeks