It was a weekend of success stories, pitlane drama and what could have beens as the 2019 Supercars season kicked off in style in Adelaide’s East End. Scott McLaughlin began his title defence in style by winning Saturday’s race in dominant fashion before following up with pole position and another win on Sunday. It was a perfect debut for the new Ford Mustang GT, as Fabian Coulthard’s pole position in Saturday’s shootout ensured that the new car took both poles and both wins in the hands of DJR Team Penske drivers. Whilst McLaughlin led from the front the chasing back battled behind. I’ve given my thoughts on some of the biggest talking points from 2019’s opening weekend.

Coulthard And Mostert Left To Rue Missed Opportunities

As McLaughlin grabbed the headlines on the Mustang’s race debut, Fabian Coulthard and Chaz Mostert were two drivers who were left to rue mistakes and bad luck which almost certainly cost them at least a podium finish. Coulthard’s weekend got off to a brilliant start with a sensational pole position in the top ten shootout before a jump-start at the line saw him slapped with a ten second time penalty in race one. That dropped him from contention and although he would recover to finish 6th in the race, the car had the pace to challenge for the win. Being excluded from the top ten shootout on Sunday dropped him into the pack for race two, and he finished in 20th after double stacking behind McLaughlin in pitlane.

Fabian Coulthard's weekend went downhill fast after he recieved a ten second penalty for jumping the start in race one. Image thanks to Speedcafe.
Fabian Coulthard’s weekend went downhill fast after he recieved a ten second penalty for jumping the start in race one. Image thanks to Speedcafe.

Mostert failed to make Saturday’s top ten shootout but still finished 5th in the race. His chances to challenge McLaughlin for victory on Sunday were ruined after being hit by Rick Kelly in the pitlane. I’m still not what to make of that incident. Whilst it does appear that Mostert was released into the path of Rick Kelly, surely Kelly could have braked harder or faster as soon as his car made contact with Mostert’s. Either way, the incident ruined of their races, and put mechanics and team personell working in the pit lane in needless danger.

Outside of McLaughlin, Van Gisbergen and Waters, Coulthard and Mostert were two of the fastest drivers at Adelaide but failed to come away with the points to prove it. The season is a long one, but both will no doubt be disappointed not to have been able to capitalise on the Mustang’s brilliant pace. Despite his bad luck, I think we’ve already seen a very different Fabian Coulthard to the one in 2018. He looks fast, hungry and more than capable of pushing McLaughlin and I expect to see him hungry for redemption next time out in Melbourne.

Not The Start To The Season Erebus Were Hoping For

I expected Erebus to be stronger at Adelaide, and although the team showed flashes of pace they were comprehensively beaten by Tickford in the battle to best of the rest behind the top two teams. Anton De Pasquale’s weekend got off to a tough start after crashing out of qualifying on Saturday and finishing 16th in the race. He recovered well to qualfiy 9th on Sunday before falling back to 14th at the finish, but it was a tough weekend for the driver who many rated as the top rookie of 2018. De Pasquale will be keen to bounce back at Melbourne in two weeks time, and I have no doubts that he will. Adelaide was a tough first weekend back for the young charger but De Pasquale is one who will improve as the year goes on.

 Anton De Pasquale crashes Adelaide 2019
Anton De Pasquale crashed hard at turn 8 in qualifying on Saturday. Image thanks to Supercars.

An 8th and a 9th for teammate David Reynolds marked Erebus’ best results of the weekend, and I’m sure they would have been hoping for better. It seemed like the team never quite got their Commodores dialled in, although Reynolds’ 4th in qualifying, which became 3rd after Coulthard’s exclusion provided some hope of a strong Sunday. The first lap battle with Cam Waters left Reynolds coming off worse, and it seemed like it took car #9 a while to recover from that exchange as he fell further and further down the field. He led the race for a brief period at the restart but fell back after a long final fuel stop.

Its only race one of the season, but with Tickford seemingly on the rise again Erebus’ position as best of the rest looks to be under serious threat, for now at least. Melbourne is a circuit where Reynolds scored a victory last year, and the Australian GP weekend will be one where Erebus will be looking to re-assert themselves at the sharp end of grid after a sobering first weekend back.

Standout Drives On Sunday

Sunday’s race featured a whole host of standout drives. Following on from his impressive 9th place on his debut for IRWIN Racing, Mark Winterbottom followed up on Sunday with a fantastic drive from 24th on the grid to 6th by the checkered flag. It was a great start to his Holden and IRWIN Racing career, and Frosty looks set for a successful first season with the team. Whilst race wins might still be a bit of a stretch, with Frosty behind the wheel IRWIN Racing could be the team emulate the Tekno Autosports of a few years ago by the end of the season, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the team push on throughout the year.

Mark Winterbottom Adelaide 500 2019, thehairpincorner
Frosty drove a fantastic race from 24th on the grid to 6th on Sunday.

Macauley Jones’ huge shunt in practice on Saturday cast a shadow over BJR’s weekend but the team recovered strongly with Slade and Percat who finished 4th and 5th on Sunday. Nick Percat ran inside the top ten all weekend with a 7th on Saturday and two appearances in the top ten shootouts to add to his result card. Slade struggled to 17th on Saturday but his recovery in race two was remarkable, and overall it was a strong weekend for Brad Jones Racing.

Todd Hazelwood also enjoyed a solid drive to 10th on Sunday for Matt Stone Racing, and its nice to see Hazelwood in a car which is finally capable of matching his talent. Like De Pasquale, I think Hazelwood is another driver who is only going to push on and get better in 2019 and a 10th in the race and 8th in the top ten shootout is a great way to start the year.

DJR Team Penske Won’t Have It All Their Own Way

It would have been fascinating to see how close Shane Van Gisbergen would have got to Scott McLaughlin had Sunday’s race run the full distance and not gone time certain. The fresh set of tyres on his car looked to be a masterstroke as he caught Waters and McLaughlin at vast rate of knots in the final laps of the race until his charge slowed with Waters’ brilliant defence. SVG was good all weekend in Adelaide and whist teammate Whincup didn’t manage to carry his Saturday pace over to Sunday, SVG did.

Shane Van Gisbergen Adelaide 2019, thehairpincorner
SVG scored two solid third place finishes in Adelaide to establish himself as McLaughlin’s main early season challenger. Image thanks to Daily Telegraph.

Two third places represent a solid haul for the Kiwi, especially given how good the Mustang was on the streets of Adelaide, but SVG’s pace, in particular, showed DJR Team Penske that they won’t be having things all their way in 2019. Triple Eight must improve the Commodore to make up the gap they currently appear to have, but I’m almost certain they will, and expect both SVG and Whincup to be pushing McLaughlin hard this year.

Standout Driver: Who else but Scott McLaughlin

Biggest Disappointments: Either Fabian Coulthard or Chaz Mostert as largely through no fault of their own they failed to extract the maximum from the Mustang.

Standout Drive: 24th to 6th from Mark Winterbottom

What are your thoughts on the Adelaide weekend? Who impressed and who didn’t? Comment below with your thoughts or let me know over on Facebook!

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