THE Virgin Australia Supercars Championship returned to the track today at Sydney Motorsport Park and it was a case of the same contenders fighting for the victory.
Scott McLaughlin led home countryman Shane van Gisbergen in a tight finish, allowing the reigning champion to further extend his points advantage in the 2020 championship chase.
The 24-car Supercars field made its return to racing for the first time in 107 days since the Superloop Adelaide 500 earlier in the year, though the end result saw the two super teams lock out the podium positions.
McLaughlin’s 45th championship race win means that his DJR Team Penske squad and Red Bull HRT have won the last 30 races in a row dating back to Albert Park 2019.
The last team to win a race outside those two squads is Tickford Racing via former driver Chaz Mostert at Albert Park, 2019.
Having another team taste some victory champagne is indeed very, very important to mix things up!
Here’s a range of other thoughts post today’s Race 7 of the championship:
While we don’t like to talk tyres too much at v8sleuth.com.au, the ability for teams to choose between two and four tyre pit stops helped mix things up a little and at least give some opportunities for different strategies.
But we’ve big advocates at Sleuth HQ for less talk about tyres – there’s plenty of rubber chat that goes on at every Supercars weekend from everyone else, so we like to avoid it!
The tightly compressed schedule with minimal gaps between sessions and a lack of data to pore over (and time to pore over it as well!) may have been completely different from what we’re accustomed to, however it’s got plenty of elements we need to look at implementing in the championship when things get back to, well, normal.
V8 Sleuth was at Sandown in 2002 – why does that matter? It was the last time the championship had a Top 15 Shootout, and Cam Waters’ performance today had us reaching for the record books.
He qualified 14th and ended the Shootout third – coming within one spot of equalling the record for most positions improved in a Shootout – it’s 12 set in Adelaide 2001, where Greg Murphy went from 13th to pole and Mark Skaife from 14th to second!
The sight of a broadcast without any fans on the spectator banks and in the grandstand certainly was also strange, however the fact the championship was back on track was indeed better than the alternative of no racing.
McLaughlin’s win today was just the second time he’s scored a victory at Sydney Motorsport Park, meaning he’s converted just two of his record seven SMP poles into victories.
It was the first time a pole-sitter has converted pole into a race win at SMP since Mostert did it in 2015.
The winning margin of 0.1876-seconds is the closest ATCC/VASC SMP race finish since 1996 Race 1 when John Bowe led home Craig Lowndes by 0.0782-seconds – this was referred to in the FOX Sports telecast at the end of today’s race however we can clarify the hosts meant that it was the closest since 1996 ‘at SMP’.
Tomorrow there will be two more races to round out the BP Ultimate SuperSprint in Sydney.