DJR Team Penske continued their domination of the 2019 Supercars season by winning both races under the lights at Barbagallo Raceway in Western Australia. The SuperNight was a fantastic spectacle, and it seems that Supercars have taken all the lessons learned last year in Sydney to develop the SuperNight into a fantastic event. On the TV at least, the action and coverage was fantastic and both Barbagallo and the whole Supercars field looked brilliant under the lights. Personally, I think that the weekend demonstrates that Perth could easily become a regular night race on the calendar and I really hope to see it return in 2020. I’ve given my thoughts on all the biggest talking points from the SuperNight in my weekend wrap.
DJR Team Penske Are The Unstoppable Force In 2019
For all of the talk about the Mustang’s perceived advantages over the Commodore and Altima, I think Perth gave us the clearest indication so far this year when it comes to the simply supreme job DJR Team Penske and McLaughlin, in particular, are doing this season. McLaughlin took pole for both races and finished 2nd on Friday and 1st on Saturday to extend his championship lead to 142 points and almost one whole race victory. He will be concerned about his starts in both races, losing out on the line to Coulthard on Friday and Whincup on Saturday but other than that, it’s hard to find any weaknesses in McLaughlin’s performances at the moment.
Fabian Coulthard followed up a strong Phillip Island by winning on Friday night and finishing 4th on Saturday. We saw on Friday that if Coulthard can get ahead of McLaughlin then he can most likely stay there, however qualifying undid car #12 on Saturday and whilst he rose to 4th at the flag, he didn’t have enough to challenge properly. In any other season, Coulthard may well have found himself leading the championship. However, he’s up against a once in a generational talent in Scott McLaughlin and I think he’s doing an admirable job. He’s still firmly in touch and has more than enough pace to challenge McLaughlin at times. It’s going to be really tough to win the title, though.
Better From Tickford At Barbagallo
After a poor Phillip Island, Tickford Racing returned to the podium for the first time since Melbourne with Chaz Mostert finishing 3rd on Friday and Cam Waters 3rd on Saturday. Both drivers, along with Will Davison who had a tougher weekend coming home 6th and 8th sit inside the championship’s top ten but the reality is they look a long way from challenging DJR Team Penske for race wins. Mostert was an unfortunate retiree on Saturday night, robbing what could have been a potential double podium but I feel like Tickford are firmly in a battle with Triple Eight for best of the rest. Two podiums will be a welcome result but they are just missing something compared to DJR Team Penske, both in qualifying speed and race pace.
Lee Holdsworth is still struggling with the adaptation to the Mustang despite an improved race pace showing in recent rounds. A pair of 9th place finishes at Barbagallo lifted him to 13th in the championship standings, but he’s still searching for that breakthrough top five or podium finish.
Triple Eight Recovery But Whincup The Man In Charge
Like Tickford, Triple Eight showed signs of recovery at Barbagallo with Whincup finishing 4th on Friday and 2nd on Saturday and Shane Van Gisbergen scoring a pair of 5th place finishes. Curiously, while it has been SVG who has had the upper hand between the pair for most of 2019, it was Whincup who was in charge in Perth holding off SVG in a tense end to Friday’s race before beating McLaughlin off the line in race two to finish 2nd. Once Saturday’s race settled, it became clear that Whincup wasn’t able to match McLaughlin on pace, and a late race safety car effectively ended his hopes of victory with a good tyre option late in the race.
Nevertheless, despite losing out to McLaughlin on Saturday it was a positive weekend for Whincup who rises to 6th in the championship after Perth. It’s fascinating to see Triple Eight seriously and consistently challenged at the front of Supercars, and it’s going to take a team effort, and a serious one to wrest control at the top back from DJR Team Penske. We’re heading to a series of races at Winton, Darwin and Townsville where Triple Eight have traditionally been strong in the past and the team will eyeing the next three rounds as a chance to change the momentum in the championship. Whincup will have been pleased with his showing at Barbagallo and it was important that he bettered SVG over the course of a weekend.
Nightmare Season For Walkinshaw Andretti United
Walkinshaw Andretti United sit 8th in the team’s championship after Barbagallo with James Courtney and Scott Pye in 14th and 18th in the championship respectively. I think it’s safe to say that WAU haven’t had the best of starts to 2019 but now that the season is settled down I think there should be a real cause for concern over at the team. I try to stay reasonably neutral (on here at least) but I was devastated when the team lost Holden factory backing at the end of 2016 and the Holden Racing Team name all but disappeared in its traditional sense.
Whilst I’m pleased to see manufacturers still supporting Supercars, it’s tough to watch a team which once covered itself in glory struggle so much near the rear end of the field and Barbagallo was another tough weekend, as Scott Pye’s accident and subsequent DNF on Saturday meant the team scored a best finish of 16th across the weekend. In their third year without Holden backing and second year of the Andretti and United Autosports partnership, the time has come for the team to make serious progress and start climbing the pecking order once again, but based on their 2019 form so far it won’t happen this season. In Courtney and Pye they have two drivers who are capable of great results, but something is amiss and they look miles away from where they should be. A season-best result of 5th for Courtney at Symmons Plains and 6th for Pye in Melbourne flatters WAU’s pace at the moment, and Pye will be eyeing Winton, where scored a 2nd last season as the track to kick off his 2019 campaign.
What did you think of the Perth SuperNight? Who impressed and who didn’t? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!