It was a season which followed a very similar pattern to 2017 as DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight battled it out for the drivers and teams championships. Whilst in 2017 it was Triple Eight who secured the drivers (Whincup) and DJR Team Penske who secure the teams, the spoils were reversed this season as Scott McLaughlin claimed his, and DJR Team Penske’s first drivers title. As part of my Supercars end of season review I’ll be assessing the fortunes of drivers and teams all the way down the grid, but today I’m starting with drivers who finished 26th – 13th in the standings. Read on for my assessment and verdict on the 2018 season.
26th – Todd Hazelwood – 1201 points. Best result 13th (Newcastle)
The 2017 Super2 series champion and Supercars rookie had a tough debut season in Supercars which also featured an unusual change of car and manufacturer mid-season. 26th and last in the standings isn’t what Hazelwood would have hoped for, but a strong record in Super2 proves he has the talent to succeed. An up to date Holden ZB Commodore will help in 2019, and he did score a career-best finish of 13th in race one at Newcastle. Hazelwood is one for the future, but he would have been hoping for a stronger debut year.
25th – Richie Stanaway – 1214 points. Best result 9th (Winton)
I can’t have been the only one who was surprised at Stanaway’s struggles this year. The 2017 Sandown 500 winner replaced Jason Bright at Tickford and struggled all season long in a team which suffered their worst season for a number of years. A season-best finish of 9th at Winton was a rare positive result in an otherwise disappointing campaign, but although his pedigree is stronger than most rookies I think his struggles show just how difficult a category Supercars is. With his 2019 plans still unknown at the time of writing I do think he still has what it takes to make it in Supercars, but he can’t afford another horror show like 2018.
24th – Tim Blanchard – 1277 points. Best result 11th (Albert Park)
Blanchard ended his final season as a full-time driver 24th in the standings and although you can’t fault him on a personal level I think its the right time for that third BJR car to be handed over to an up and coming young driver. 2018 was actually Blanchard’s worst finishing position as a full-time driver since 2013 and a season-best 11th place finish at Albert Park was an early highlight. Blanchard and Cool Drive have been a mainstay in Supercars in the last three seasons, but 2018 was a year in which they passed by under the radar.
23rd – Simona de Silvestro – 1323 points. Best result 10th (Newcastle)
Simona de Silvestro’s second season in Supercars and the Nissan Altima took her to 23rd in the overall standings and once place better than 2017. It wasn’t the season de Silvestro or anyone at Nissan would have hoped for, and a season-best finish of 10th at Newcastle in race one remains a highlight of a disappointing year. The Nissan Motorsport Altima wasn’t the most competitive car on the grid by any means, but she would have at least been targeting not to be last of the Nissans in her second year. It wasn’t the 2018 to write home about, but she has at least one more season in Supercars to start producing strong results.
22nd – James Golding – 1418 points. Best result 8th (Bathurst)
Golding’s first full season as a Supercars driver netted him 22nd in the standings and a season-best 8th at Bathurst, not brilliant but not terribly bad results for a rookie. It was a reasonably uneventful year for the GRM driver and he did show a marked improvement as the season went on. He’s done enough in 2018 to suggest that he’s got what it takes to become an established driver in the series, and will have his sights firmly set on top ten finishes in 2019.
21st – Lee Holdsworth – 1443 points. Best result 9th (Newcastle)
It was a tough year for Holdsworth in the Preston Hire Commodore and he leaves Team 18 having finished 21st in the standings with a season-best result of 9th at Newcastle. Holdsworth’s fortunes at Charlie Schwerkolt Racing started well in 2015 but have got progressively worse over the last three seasons and he will be replaced by Mark Winterbottom for 2019. With his plans unknown at the time of writing but Tickford his rumoured destination, I feel that Holdsworth has one final chance to prove himself in Supercars before he may struggle to find himself a full-time drive.
20th – Anton de Pasquale – 1524 points. Best result 7th (Philip Island)
de Pasquale just missed out on the top rookie award to Jack Le Brocq but it was a solid debut season nonetheless in a rapidly improving Erebus outfit. 11th and 4th in his two seasons in Super2, de Pasquale has shown he can improve in the past and despite a good rookie year with a best result of 7th at Philip Island, I feel that de Pasquale is almost certain to go better in 2019. He occasionally mixed it at the front with the big boys and I feel that a podium next year would be a realistic target. 3rd place on the grid at Bathurst was a notable highlight.
19th – Jack Le Brocq – 1673 points. Best result 5th (Symmons Plains)
For some reason or another Tekno Autosports seem to have fallen a long way back from where they once were but Le Brocq showed his strong pedigree in 2018 by finishing best of the rookies. Despite never winning the Super2 series, Le Brocq finished 3rd, 2nd and 3rd in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and I think that extra experience shone through this season when comparing him to the likes of Stanaway, Hazelwood and Golding. A best result of 5th in race two at Symmons Plains set the tone for a solid season and he also finished 9th at Barbagallo and again at Symmons Plains. I hope we see Le Brocq in Supercars for a long time to come because I think he could develop into one of the series’ top operators with a few years experience under his belt.
18th – Michael Caruso – 1765 points. Best result 3rd (The Bend)
2018 can’t have been the year Caruso was hoping for in the final season of Nissan’s factory involvement. 2018 was Caruso’s worst finish in the standings since his Nissan debut back in 2013 and a single podium finish at The Bend was his best result of the year. Caruso is another driver whose 2019 destination is unknown as I write this but I do think he is someone who definitely deserves to remain on the Supercars grid. Alongside Rick Kelly, Caruso has been Nissan’s top performer in the last few years and we have seen enough in the past to suggest that his 2018 struggles were just a one-off. He faces an uncertain off-season and would have certainly been targeting the top ten in 2018.
17th – Andre Heimgartner – 1775 points. Best result 6th (Newcastle)
Heimgartner can’t be classed as a rookie after he enjoyed two seasons with Super Black Racing and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport in 2015 and 2016, but a 17th placed finish in the table marked the best year-end finish of his career so far. The second-highest placed Nissan driver enjoyed a solid year back in the main game in a struggling Nissan team with some strong but unspectacular performances. 6th in the final race at Newcastle was his best result of the season, and it was his late run of form in the final three races of the year that allowed him to beat teammate Caruso in the standings. I think he deserves to stay around for another crack next year.
16th – Cam Waters – 1873 points. Best result 5th (Albert Park)
After finishing 8th in the standings last year, 2018 can’t be classed as anything but a disappointment for Waters after he ended the season 16th in the standings. His best result of the year came with a 5th place finish at Albert Park and Waters failed to shine in a struggling and uncompetitive Tickford car. I was so impressed with Waters last year, and with the way he pushed on after a tough rookie year. But I think we’ve seen enough in the past, and in Super2 to be convinced that Waters is a driver with a long and bright future in Supercars. If the Mustang is on the pace I expect Waters to be in or around the top ten in 2019.
15th – Will Davison – 1927 points. Best result 7th (The Bend x2, Barbagallo)
Davison is a driver whose performances and end of season finishes have fallen away a little since his 2008 – 2013 success years but in a new team and new car for 2018, a 15th place finish is a respectable result. His first year since 2013 in a Ford, Davison had a season-best finish of 7th, which he achieved in both races at The Bend and at Barbagallo, but rarely troubled any of the front running cars. Like Caruso, I do feel that Davison has done more than enough to remain in Supercars and I think that back under the Tickford fold in the Mustang we could see a rejuvenated 23 Red Racing and Davison next year. It was a solid season for Will, but we all know he can do better.
14th – James Courtney – 2073 points. Best result 2nd (Adelaide)
14th place for James Courtney marked an improvement on his 21st place from 2017, but its still not where he should, or wants to be. Courtney was beaten fair and square for the second year in a row by teammate Scott Pye but did enjoy three visits to the podium at Adelaide, Symmons Plains and Surfers Paradise. The season started strongly, but a poor run between Barbagallo and Sandown let him down before he recovered towards the tail end of the year. Courtney really hasn’t had a standout season since 2014 and although plenty will question him I think he is still up there with some of the best in the series. Time is running out to prove that, though.
13th – Garth Tander – 2139 points. Best result 3rd (Adelaide)
Although no longer teammates, Courtney and Tander are never far from each other! It was a solid year for Tander but one where he failed to finish inside the championships top ten for the first time since 2004. A season-best result came right at the start of the year in race two at Adelaide and he drove a consistently during the year to dominate rookie teammate Golding in the standings. Tander has been one of the top operators in Supercars for a number of years, and he will be looking to get back inside the top ten in 2019.
Stay tuned for part two of my season review featuring drivers 12th – 5th, and in the meantime why not like and follow thehairpincorner.com on Facebook?