As the dust settles on the 2018 season, touring car fans the world over await the 2019 Adelaide 500, the event which signals the start of the 2019 touring car season. With the arrival of the Mustang and the departures of Craig Lowndes, Nissan and the Ford Falcon the Supercars grid will look very different come Adelaide next year. Following on from my assessment of all the drivers from 1st to 26th in the standings, I’ve taken a different look at the table in my top ten Supercars drivers of 2018 countdown.
10th – Jack Le Brocq – Tekno Autosports
Best of the rookies is no bad way to end your debut year, and Le Brocq’s Super2 pedigree showed in his first full season of Supercars. 19th in the standings with a best result of 5th at Symmons Plains, Tekno’s season wasn’t like the ones full of wins and podiums they enjoyed from 2013 through to 2016, but Le Brocq demonstrated his strong credentials and cemented his status as a top driver of the future.
9th – Nick Percat – Brad Jones Racing
2018 was Percat’s best season yet in Supercars and although it’s taken him a while to get going in the category, he really stepped up his game in 2018. Two podiums helped him to 10th in the overall standings, a nine place improvement from 2017. Next year will be Percat’s sixth full season in Supercars, and third with BJR. If he can make the same leap again this off-season as he did last year he could be looking at the fringes of the top five in the championship and race wins.
8th – Anton de Pasquale – Erebus Motorsport
Anton de Pasquale just edges it in terms of the best rookie for me, and the Erebus driver enjoyed a sensational year capped by a brilliant 3rd place in qualifying at Bathurst. Supercars is no easy category for even the most experienced rookies, but de Pasquale qualified in the top ten 13 times out of 31 races though he did struggle to convert strong qualifying into strong race pace. However race-craft can be improved with experience, and de Pasquale used 2018 to mark himself as a star of the future. A podium next year should be the aim.
7th – Scott Pye – Walkinshaw Andretti United
Pye’s achievements at Walkinshaw shouldn’t go unnoticed, and if it wasn’t for a supreme 2018 for a couple of other drivers on the grid he would have finished higher in this top ten list. 2018 was Pye’s best season in Supercars and he took his breakthrough win at Albert Park. He also doubled up with a second Bathurst 1000 podium and demolished teammate Courtney in the championship for the second year running. Pye has gone from an outcast at DJR Team Penske to one of the top Holden drivers on the grid and I think given the right machinery he’s another driver who should be finishing in the top five.
6th – Craig Lowndes – Triple Eight Racing
Putting Lowndes 6th might be controversial, but it doesn’t mean he had a bad season. Lowndes delivered everything we have come to expect of him in 2018 and he finished his time as a full-time Supercars driver with a memorable win at Bathurst. His only other win came at near the start of the year at Symmons Plains, but it was another solid drive to 4th in the final standings and a great recovery after a tough 2017. Whoever of Whincup or Van Gisbergen get Lowndes as a co-driver for the enduros will be a huge favourite.
5th – Chaz Mostert – Tickford Racing
You only have to look at the fortunes of his Tickford teammates to get an idea of just how good Mostert was this year. The only Tickford driver to win a race, and the only one to finish inside the top ten, 2018 was the year where Mostert established himself as Tickford’s number one man. It was a long time coming but a win at the Gold Coast 600 ensured that Mostert reached the top step of the podium this year, with two other 3rd places coming at Queensland Raceway and Pukekohe. The Mustang next year will bring new challenges, but if Tickford can build a half-decent car then Mostert will be in the mix for the title.
4th – Jamie Whincup – Triple Eight Racing
It wasn’t the scintillating title defence that Whincup would have hoped for, and he found himself playing catchup from Bathurst onwards. A tough run between Philip Island and Darwin cost him in the title fight, but victory at Sandown and his brilliant start to the year showed us that he’s still got it. Whincup will have been disappointed not to have been in the running for the title at Newcastle, but with a year under the belt for the ZB Commodore and the Mustang on the way, stability and experience could be the key to Whincup’s title challenge in 2019. I’m sure he’ll be up there.
3rd – David Reynolds – Erebus Motorsport
David Reynolds and Erebus were the surprise package for me in 2018 and it was brilliant to see both have such a successful season. Reynolds was easily best of the rest behind Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske, and he came oh so agonisingly close to what would have been historic back-to-back Bathurst wins. Victory in the final race of the season sent Reynolds off into the winter break on a high, and now the challenge for team and driver is to bridge that final, daunting gap to the top two teams. Do that, and the title could be theirs.
2nd – Shane Van Gisbergen – Triple Eight Racing
Van Gisbergen has established himself at Triple Eight in a way which many thought impossible, and in 2018 he was the team’s top driver and came so so close to winning his second title in three years. In the end, it was costly pit-stop infringements that made life much more difficult for him, but he was supreme between Philip Island and Sandown as he clawed back the ground, and then took the lead in the title fight. I’m sure there will be more championships for Van Gisbergen in the future, and he was brilliant once again in 2018.
1st – Scott McLaughlin – DJR Team Penske
You couldn’t choose anyone else but McLaughlin. The DJR Team Penske driver sent the Ford Falcon out on a high with his first Supercars championship title after a sensational year which included that brilliant four-race winning run at Philip Island and Barbagallo. After the heartbreak of last year, it would have been so cruel if McLaughlin had missed out on the title again. But his championship potential has been evident since his full-time debut in 2013, and if he remains in Supercars for a long time then I think he’s one who’s going to win multiple titles. McLaughlin will be the figurehead for many Ford fans in the Mustang for 2019, and based on his performances this year there’s no reason why he can’t do it all over again.
Who do you think performed in 2018, and who didn’t? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!
The new Weekly Roundup is thehairpincorner’s take on all the news in global touring car racing. Coming in both a podcast and written form, each week you’ll get my thoughts on all the news, moves and on-track action. Sign up below to join the distribution list.