Crash and bash: 5 things to look for during this weekend's Supercars action
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The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is back on track today and into the weekend, with the second round of the PIRTEK Enduro Cup on the treacherous streets of the Gold Coast.
This year's Vodafone Gold Coast 600 is perhaps more loaded with meaning and potential implication than in previous years. Here's five reasons why it's set to be an enthralling watch.
1. Yet more Bathurst 'slow down' blow back
Yes, it's been two weeks since a 43-second window reshaped the Mount Panorama script. Such is the passion and dedication around the sport that it's still just as big a talking point today to many as it was on that fateful Sunday afternoon.
DJR Team Penske haven't necessarily coated themselves in glory in the way they've dealt with it, either, with managing director Ryan Story only making a statement on the matter yesterday. “As a team, we accepted the penalties that were issued by the stewards, but as team principal of DJR Team Penske and leader of the team, I accept full and complete responsibility for what happened at Bathurst,” he told Supercars Trackside.
“Moving on from that, our focus is on the races this weekend and the remaining races of the 2019 season.”
Expect the jokes, sly jabs, and more serious claims to continue this weekend. Even if the category and the team in the centre of it all clearly want to just move on.
2. Crashes galore
The Gold Coast circuit is a concrete canyon, known for many a spectacular shunt over previous years.
Along with being very narrow and being lined with unforgiving barriers, the Surfers track also features some of the most monstrous kerbing on the calendar. A lack of obvious passing opportunities also means that drivers are often forced into 'do or die'–type passing scenarios on track. This is emphasised by the defending driver generally knowing exactly where their aggressor is going to pounce.
It's no wonder that the majority of the biggest incidents at the Gold Coast generally involve two or more cars.
3. Co-driver errors
And you can add co-drivers as a contributor to the above factor, too.
To be fair, even the best of the best regularly make mistakes here. But, what will cast a particularly bright light onto the co-drivers this year is that, unlike in previous years they all arrive at the 4.47km track with only one enduro event under their collective belts in the build-up instead of two.
The lack of race miles and experience (especially for those who didn't get much seat time at Bathurst due to incidents and the like) means they're vulnerable to potential error. And that doesn't necessarily just mean on the track, either. The Surfers Paradise pit lane is one of the most narrow and chaotic on the schedule, and is known for things like fast-lane contact and lock-ups at pit entry.
4. Passing, the next concern
Away from the whole DJR Team Penske saga, the other big controversial talking point at Bathurst was how difficult it was for drivers to make passes because of the huge level of 'aero wash' from car to car. In Layman's terms, the huge increase of aero on each car from season to season has made it difficult for drivers to follow each other closely at speed because of the way the air flows from one car to the next. Passing was listed as being particularly tough at high-speed areas like The Chase.
It's a topic that's likely to be reignited this weekend. Most of the prime passing spots at the Gold Coast are slower corners like the turn three hairpin, and the hefty braking application at the end of the back straight.
The flip-side of that, however, is that both of those passing spots come after high speed, high stakes chicanes. An early guess says that the slow, acute corners will triumph over the aero problems to deliver us some interesting racing like it did in 2010 with Shane van Gisbergen's memorable fight with Jamie Whincup. But, it could very easily go the other way, too.
5. A potential newly crowned champion
In the midst of all the drama, Scott McLaughlin could easily lock in his second Supercars Championship title in as many years.
The Kiwi and newly crowned Bathurst 1000 champ leads the points by an enormous 662-point margin. If the Shell Ford Mustang pilot drops no more than 22 points to Shane van Gisbergen and 261 points to Chaz Mostert (a feat as simple as beating them both on both days), he will be the provisional champion.
He could even win it on Saturday if luck goes his way and he eclipses van Gisbergen by 128 points, while losing no more than Mostert simultaneously. As it was put by Supercars.com, "put simply, McLaughlin secures the title on Saturday if he finishes in the top three and van Gisbergen does not finish, regardless of where Mostert places."