Rating the Supercars season ahead of the finale
A look back at the Supercars season before it ends this weekend… we’re expecting Shane van Gisbergen will take the title, but…
BY SUNDAY EVENING a Supercars champion will be crowned. The points table will tell you it’s likely to be Shane van Gisbergen, but weirder things have happened at Homebush. Like the time he crashed into the medical car.
In a year where the move to soft tyres, longer races and a more open-minded drivers standard observer have had an impact, Supercars has produced some quality performances this year.
Granted, there is still a few head scratching decisions and a bit of amateur behaviour up and down pitlane, but on a whole, this season has arguably produced the best racing in years.
Here’s what I’ve liked about it:
- Soft tyres enabling drivers to pass each other;
- Three title threats at Triple Eight;
- DJR Team Penske looking impressive at times and snaring some big signings. Drivers. Sponsors. Engineers;
- Nick Percat/LDM’s giant-killing good days;
- Tim Slade winning a race;
- Richie Stanaway’s efforts at Sandown;
- Michael Caruso outperforming the Nissan; and
- Chaz Mostert’s return.
Here’s what I didn’t rate:
- The drawn-out Bathurst appeal debacle;
- Nick Percat/LDM’s bad days;
- From photographers getting allegedly assaulted to the format. The Kiwis and track are capable of more than that;
- Volvo opting out of the sport and behaving weirdly about it;
- Prodrive’s quiet season;
- Still too many pay-drivers;
- Why the second Volvo is still nowhere; and
- Walkinshaw sacking the driver ahead of the other one on points.
Australia’s next Porsche star
He’s not the household name of the Supercars superstars, but local boy Matt Campbell is making a big impression in tin-tops.
The Carrera Cup champion snared a coveted Porsche Junior drive in the Porsche Supercup that is the support category to a number of F1 races in Europe and beyond.
Campbell proved to be among the most naturally gifted drivers in the country after finishing third outright in his maiden Carrera Cup year before winning the title at his second attempt in 2016. He looked at ease in Nissan’s Supercar during the enduros and finally beat some of the best young Porsche racers in the world for the prize.
The exploits of Aussies racing overseas is often hidden in the shadows, but Campbell is the kind of talent to keep track of. Porsche has a knack for promoting within and Kiwi Earl Bamber is proof you can go from Carrera Cup to winning Le Mans outright in a prototype within a few years.
Campbell, in what he’s shown so far, has the talent to do the same.
For a guy who has achieved and proved so much in such a short period of time, the only irony is it may take a bit longer than he’s used to. Or he could defy convention again. Either works.
Farewell to a legend
In the same week we celebrate Porsche signing the latest Aussie hotshot, we farewell one of the best. Mark Webber has officially hung up his helmet. For good it seems too.
The news hasn’t been covered in great detail in this column for one simple reason; the end to a great Australian’s career has its moments of sadness.
Australian motorsport fans followed Webber way before his incredible F1 debut for Minardi where he finished fifth in Melbourne. It was before his tests with Benetton or Arrows. Even the Mercedes Le Mans debacle. For so long, he was our next big hope and as he did it the hard way, many people rode the waves as well.
He was one of the last drivers in F1 to make it on talent, not bucks or backing from a big team. He won races, came close to a title and reinvented himself in sportscars; he took out the World Endurance Cars title last year.
He did it all while being unflinchingly honest while working harder than anyone else. He was proof nice guys don’t finish last, and that determination still counts for something.
The racing world is poorer for his absence. But his retirement is well-earned.
Bravo Mark Webber. A tremendous driver. Better bloke. A major inspiration to anyone.