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Supercars Newcastle 500 talking points

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Roar Guru
25th November, 2019
4

The Supercars championship in 2019 has now come to an end, drawing the curtains on yet another fascinating year of racing, rivalries and drama.

Scott McLaughlin was at last able to celebrate his second Supercars title, after a subdued affair following the Sandown 500, though the debate continues to rage on about the legitimacy of it in wake of Bathurst’s controversy.

From a crucial teams’ championship going down to the wire and reading off the honour roll for Supercars departures at 2019’s end, here are the talking points from the Newcastle 500.

Red Bull end 2019 on a high
After a year marred by controversy over parity in the Supercars category, where the new Ford Mustang arrived into the championship on a winning note, it was the factory Holden team that concluded the year on a high.

The Red Bull Holden Racing Team were the most vocal about disparity between their VF Commodore chassis and the aerodynamically proficient Mustang, having also been disadvantaged by the off-season switch to linear springs from the twin system they were previously used to.

Following several acrimonious aero adjustments throughout the season, the Commodore and Red Bull came to form heading into the Enduro Cup in early October. While they did not win the Bathurst 1000, Triple Eight have ended 2019 on an unbeaten run since the Gold Coast 600.

Both races in Newcastle were also won by Red Bull, with a dominant victory for Shane van Gisbergen during the opening Saturday leg of the event and then Jamie Whincup possessing the better strategy to win on Sunday.

A total of ten wins were amassed for the team in 2019, seven of them coming during the Enduro Cup, which was won by Whincup and Craig Lowndes. Ending the campaign on a high note can only bring about positive signs for Red Bull in 2020 – though question marks remain over the aero adjustments.

DJR Team Penske wins the Teams’ Championship
Bathurst’s controversies aside, DJR Team Penske has been the benchmark outfit throughout the majority of 2019. They hit the ground running at the Adelaide 500 with the new Mustang package and went on to win 15 of the first 17 races.

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Thirteen belonged to the reigning Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin, whose form in 2019 went to a new level, dominating his competition beyond the levels of former champions in the forms of Whincup and Mark Skaife.

Scott McLaughlin

(Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

In total, McLaughlin tallied a record 18 wins, with his teammate Fabian Coulthard also achieving two en route to Shell V-Power Racing’s second teams’ championship in three years.

McLaughlin was the benchmark for consistency with his race day results, finishing outside of the top ten on only one occasion, excluding his DNS during the second race of the Gold Coast 600. Coulthard, while having improved on the previous year, contributed a chunk of points en route to finishing fourth in the championship himself.

In the end, only 155 points separated DJR Team Penske from their rivals at Red Bull, with perhaps Whincup’s error during the Saturday race at Newcastle that cost them a one-two finish – possibly also costing them the teams’ title too. Not to mention Van Gisbergen’s qualifying penalty for impeding on Sunday and racing from the rear of the grid.

Scott Pye’s miraculous recovery
It was an emotional weekend for Scott Pye at Newcastle, not just because he contested his final race weekend with Walkinshaw Andretti United before moving to Team 18 in 2020, but also rebounding from being hospital-ridden on Friday to a pair of top-six finishes in both races.

The 29-year-old was hospitalised with an illness on Friday, which meant his endurance co-driver Warren Luff was put on standby and jumped aboard the #2 Commodore for one of the practice sessions.

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However, Pye returned to the Newcastle street circuit on Saturday, and while having endured a troubled qualifying ahead of Race 31, he was able to charge from 24th on the grid to an astonishing sixth, passing the likes of teammate James Courtney and Whincup in the latter stages of the race.

The one-time race winner for Walkinshaw then backed up his heroics on Sunday, qualifying fifth in the top-ten shootout before finishing in the same position, citing that double stacking earlier in the race may have cost him a podium, which was secured by outgoing Brad Jones Racing driver Tim Slade.

Nevertheless, Pye demonstrated his resilience in Newcastle – a quality that has made him a favourite among Supercars fans. While his tenure at WAU has sadly come to an end, there is much to look forward to with him being a part of Team 18’s expansion to two cars.

A famous victory under lights at the Melbourne 400 support round to Formula One in 2018 will surely be one of Pye’s highlights from Walkinshaw, as well as back-to-back Bathurst 1000 podiums in 2017 and 2018 with co-driver Luff, coming from the rear of the field on both occasions.

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Farewelling 2019
The end of a season also marks the end of road for some in motorsport, whether it is drivers finding a new home in the new year, or even leaving the category altogether. Sometimes even a team may bid adieu on the sport.

Fabian Coulthard leads Scott McLaughlin.

(Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

The 2019 season marks the end of a 24-year long journey for one of Supercars’ most quirky and hardworking teams in GRM, headed by the equally as quirky and jovial father-son duo of Garry and Barry Rogers.

While still set to contest S5000 and TCR in Australia, GRM were unable to secure funding to continue for a 25th campaign, especially after such a trying season in 2019 where only seventh in Townsville was their best result courtesy of James Golding.

Also departing Supercars will be Simona De Silvestro, who after three full-time seasons with Nissan Motorsport and Kelly Racing, will be off to be test and reserve driver for Porsche in Formula E. The 31-year-old hasn’t completely closed the door on Supercars though, indicating the search for an Enduro berth is currently on.

Seventh in Pukekohe in the latter part of the season was a career best for the Swiss driver, who began her career in Supercars at the 2015 Bathurst 1000 as a wildcard backed by Harvey Norman.

Kelly Racing also wave goodbye to the Nissan Altima, as they downscale their operation to two cars and switch manufacturers for the first time since 2013, over to Fords and the successful Mustang.

A number of drivers are on the move also, with the likes of Chaz Mostert set to be announced as part of WAU’s new line-up and Jack Le Brocq to take his place at Tickford. Garry Jacobson is set to land at Matt Stone Racing, replacing Todd Hazelwood, who’ll be filling Slade’s car at BJR.

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Pye and Courtney are both set for new homes, having both had emotional farewells with WAU, while Richie Stanaway took to Instagram to announce that he will be retiring from racing now that his season with GRM has concluded.

Though with a few seats still being available on the grid for 2020, there is still much to play out yet before the year closes out. However, as with the conclusion of any sporting season there will be reflection and a keen eye on what’s to come next.

And with many key narratives and talking points having carried through from the start to the end of 2019, there are some that’ll surely linger into 2020 and shape what will be another heavyweight championship battle in Supercars.