Round nine of the 2018 Supercars season brought along more encouraging signs as we look to build our momentum in the second half of the year. After a challenging first half of the season, the continued work by engineers, drivers and crew has begun to show signs of paying off after a pair of stronger rounds at Townsville and Ipswich, the latter of which concluded last Sunday at Queensland Raceway. Check out our event crash course and gallery below.
Podium at home for Mostert
Chaz Mostert turned in one of his best weekend’s of the year at Ipswich, qualifying second and third over for the weekend’s races and finishing sixth and third, scoring his first podium of 2018 on Sunday. The 26 year old’s Saturday qualifying performance was negated after he allegedly impeded another car on track, and was penalised three grid spots for Saturday’s start. That penalty hurt Mostert in the opening laps, as the Queenslander was nudged wide of Turn 6 on Lap 2, dropping back to ninth and forcing an extremely early pit stop. The undercut worked magnificently, however, as Mostert ran as high as P2 on old tyres mid-race before fading to an eventual P6 finish. Sunday was a much smoother race, as Mostert drove from third to third, holding off a charging Jamie Whincup in the final laps to secure his 38th career podium finish. Remarkably, Mostert has brought home at least one trophy every year he’s ever raced at Ipswich, with nine podiums in total.
Stanaway’s improved pace
Ahead of Townsville earlier this month, Richie Stanaway and the RABBLE.club Racing team elected to follow Mostert’s setup path more closely, as the rookie attempts to find his footing as a main game driver. Stanaway admitted his struggles in 2018 have been largely to do with little experience in setting up a Supercar to his liking, as his previous co-driving roles involved minimal setup input, and rather adapting to his main game driver’s driving style. The decision to follow the lead of Car 55 has appeared to pay dividends, as the Kiwi placed in the top ten in all three practice sessions, qualified tenth for the Sunday race, and finished 12th on Saturday for his best race finish since Winton in May. With his confidence visibly building and heading to tracks where he has previously turned laps in a Supercar, Stanaway appears poised to ease his learning curve heading into the next several rounds.
Ebb and flow
While Mostert and Stanaway enjoyed strong weekends on track, Mark Winterbottom and Cameron Waters struggled through a pair of tough days at QR, with Frosty finishing a disappointing 20th on Saturday and 26th on Sunday after being punted on the opening lap, losing four laps to the leaders. Waters managed 22nd and 17th over the two days. The pair’s struggle for pace came as a result of the team’s decision to send it’s four cars in different directions in terms of engineering. While Mostert and Stanaway found gains in their setups and progress through the weekend, Waters and Winterbottom found less speed in their Fords. Despite the frustrating results, both drivers emerged from Ipswich chin up looking forward to the coming rounds and the stretch to the Enduros, which begins next weekend.
What’s next: Sydney SuperNight 300
Offering a new format, Sydney may prove to be a championship changing event on the calendar. Deviating from the common two-race format, the Supercars field will contest a single race on Saturday night under the lights at Sydney Motorsport Park. At 300 kilometres, the Sydney SuperNight 300 will be the longest single driver event of the year, and is expected to be the longest single amount of seat time drivers will experience in 2018, which is why the winner will score a massive 300 points, the same amount awarded for winning the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000. With the huge points haul on tap, all bets are off as Supercars contests its first night race on Australian soil in over 20 years.