And just like that the curtains are drawn shut on the opening weekend of the 2020 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship. The lap times have been impressive, the cars are as even as ever and a myriad of rookies and old-timers are out to impress. Let us look at five things we have learnt from the Superloop Adelaide 500…
1. The field is closer than ever but at the expense of passing.
Supercars have worked tirelessly to ensure a level playing field ever since last season when the Mustang left everyone else in their wake. Over the Christmas period last year and into the beginning of 2020, Supercars conducted two full days of aerodynamic ‘VCAT’ testing, developed an all-new shock absorber that must be used by everyone, and stripped away a fair degree of downforce that each car once generated; all in pursuit of an equal playing field. However, the foregoing weekend in Adelaide suggests that, while the cars are indeed closer than ever after all a mere eight-tenths covered all ten cars in Saturday’s shootout, the consequent result is the races are just as processional than they ever were before. A fine line must be drawn up that creates close racing and exciting racing. Overtaking is a prerequisite for exhilaration and Supercars still require a fair volume of work to succeed in this field.
2. Red Bull are fast…very, very fast
Both Red Bull HRT Commodore’s deserved to win both races over the weekend and were it not for a team error in the #97 garage, they most likely would have. The Brisbane based outfit was strong on all areas of the court. Qualifying trim seemed impeccable, race pace was consistently the fastest of the field, and the ZB Commodore was a rocket in clear air. Both Whincup and Van Gisbergen simply drove away from their competition when they hit the front. Until yesterday’s race, Triple Eight had stood on the top step of the podium in every race since the Gold Coast 600 last year. Expect Red Bull supremacy for much of the first half of the year while their rivals play catchup.
3. Coulthard’s struggles continue
Fabian Coulthard undoubtedly had a rough 2019. Often upwards of one-second behind teammate McLaughlin in qualifying and would win only two races to McLaughlin’s 18. Last weekend seemed like another case of the blues as Coulthard just could not match the front runners in either two races, languishing around the bottom quarter of the top ten. The car is undoubtedly the second fastest on the grid, but Coulthard hasn’t been able to muster anywhere near its potential. Here is hoping Melbourne marks the beginning of a turnaround for the kiwi.
4. Mostert is WAU’s saving grace
When Mostert crossed the finish line in second position on Sunday, the emotion expressed on team owner Ryan Walkinshaw suggested that all memories of a torrid 2019 had faded. Chaz Mostert was quick all weekend. His lap in practice three was nothing shy of superb, and his aggression in the race kept him and the team in the hunt all day. WAU look fierce, Mostert is the key to their success and his form in Adelaide is demonstrative of his willingness to win from the onset. Rookie teammate Bryce Fullwood did a decent job in his first outing. Though unfortunately being an innocent bystander in Sunday’s lap one mele, nonetheless, the Super2 graduate should be pleased to survive a baptism of fire and now must focus on learning from his experienced teammate before the next weekend in Melbourne.
Photo Credit: Supercars Xtra
5. The top order remains relatively unchanged.
It was initially hoped that the new technical rule changes would shake up the gird a bit, pave the way for potential new race winners. However, the field at the front looks seemingly identical to 2019. Red Bull and DJR Team Penske are the front gunners, while Tickford and Chaz Mostert are right there to pick up any of the scraps. But if WAU can continue to develop young Bryce Fullwood, and Kelly Racing sort out their superficial niggles, then perhaps this year could witness a first-time winner. But at the moment it seems Red Bull and DJR will be hammering home the victories across the season.