Everything you need to know about the five Supercars rookies
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There are five fresh faces debuting in the Supercars Championship this weekend, each of them popping into the equation from a variety of backgrounds.
It comes at an interesting time; aligning somewhat with the youth overload that's sweeping NASCAR on the other side of the world. Just two current Supercars drivers can claim to be part of the category's nexus since it came into existence in 1997 — Craig Lowndes and Garth Tander. And with 'that R word' being thrown around in talks about Lowndes, Tander could soon be a lone ranger.
And the next generation are waiting in the wings.
For someone with a sponsor as macho-sounding as 'Bigmate', Hazelwood sure looks like a quiet dude — perhaps the closest modern equivalent to the baby-faced Glenn Seton, a look that earned him the 'Baby-faced assassin' nickname in the '90s.
The 22-year-old's career path tells a story of hard work and determination. Hazelwood started as many pundits hope for drivers to start; with plenty of miles in karting and Formula Ford. He wasn't a champion in either, nor in Australian Formula 3 when he kicked that off in 2013, but he knew how to drive.
This was proven when he won season three of the Shannons Supercar Showdown reality television show; a sort of American Idol for race drivers, and also not based in America.
The show was short lived, but offered a good insight into the skills required to kick off a career in Supercars. Hazelwood beat one of the names on this list, Brit duo Adrian Campfield and Daniel Cammish, and the fancied Tim Macrow among others, and this put him on a path to the Development Series where he was set to make a name for himself.
Hazelwood's first three seasons in the Dunlop Development Series were solid, if unspectacular. He finished a commendable eighth on debut in 2014, progressively improving each year to fourth in 2015 and third in 2016.
But 2017 was the year. Yes, he had a huge shunt at the Sandown 500, but the performance that followed that crash and his season in the now renamed Super2 Series was what should be remembered. Against a class grid of drivers headed by the experienced Paul Dumbrell, Hazelwood was consistently the most mature and planted driver present. He had less wins than Dumbrell, but he also had less retirements (zero to two), more podiums (seven to five), and unsurprisingly a championship crown at the end of it all.
His plucky single-car Matt Stone Racing squad are making the jump to the main game with Hazelwood, and though they have a lot against them, they will be racing the Ford Falcon FG-X driven by Scott McLaughlin last season. So, expect them to be pretty quick.
Jack Le Brocq
It's still one of the best drives I've seen in person.
The 2015 Highlands 101 GT enduro had an incredible finish, which saw GT monsters Shane van Gisbergen and Christopher Mies — both in new-spec cars — having to get around a seemingly unpassable youngster named Jack Le Brocq.
He was driving an antique Mercedes-AMG SLS, and held the aggressive duo for a whole bunch of laps. In the end he lost out, but nonetheless many classed it as the drive of the day.
The 25-year-old, already the owner of an Australian Formula Ford Championship title, debuted in Super2 in 2014 — just like Hazelwood. By 2015, the pair were firm rivals, and over the next two seasons they finished next to each other in the standings.
The rivalry eventually spilled over at Sandown in 2016, when Le Brocq appeared to take out Hazelwood in a pretty contentious bit of racing. It was the second bit of controversial contact for the weekend for Le Brocq, and since then he's been a bit of a wild one in the heat of a battle.
He'll fit into Supercars perfectly then.
Having driven an FG Falcon, FG-X Falcon and Nissan Altima in Super2 competition, Le Brocq lines up this week in Tekno Autosports' newly built ZB Commodore. Tekno are coming off a disappointing 2017 with Will Davison — underlined by Davison's involvement in a horrible crash in Tasmania. With a new, less crashed car underneath, they might be on their way back to form.
Anton De Pasquale
When you think of the 'elder statesmen' of Supercars, the ones that foster the youngsters coming through, the most obvious example tends to be Garry Rogers.
However, another is Paul Morris. The former Super Touring and Bathurst 1000 champ has been a part of numerous drivers' careers including Tim Slade, Renee Gracie, Tim Blanchard, and a host of others. The most recent is the rather promising Anton De Pasquale.
Like Hazelwood his early career was based around karts and Formula Ford. He appeared to be angling for an open-wheel career in Europe, heading over to win the Formula Renault 1.6 NEC in 2014 against well seeded names like Ferdinand Habsburg and Ralf Aron.
But like Craig Lowndes before him, the European love affair only lasted so long, and by 2016 he was back racing in Australia with Paul Morris Motorsport. Season one was full of learning, and ended with 11th in the points. His second season saw quantum leaps, including two race wins and a host of second-place finishes.
De Pasquale lines up at Erebus Motorsport as the replacement for Dale Wood. And after a difficult first few years, shifting to Holden has made Erebus and signing funnyman-come-underrated-driver David Reynolds has made the squad a happy place to be.
He's the only driver on this list to not have at least a Bathurst 1000 start to his credit, but don't expect that to hold him back come race day.
The driver they call 'Bieber' could quite easily have debuted in Supercars last year.
The story goes that after a successful Super2 season with Garry Rogers Motorsport's tier-two squad, Golding was being primed to line-up alongside James Moffat as the replacement for Scott McLaughlin. However, a late deal to nab Garth Tander came at Golding's expense. And with the Super2 drive already having been signed to someone else, he was relegated to the sidelines.
It's a believable tale for the simple fact that Golding was very highly rated within the team, to the point where he was plugged into Tander's car for Enduro Cup co-driver duty.
Karts and Formula Fords (are you seeing a pattern here?) featured in Golding's early years, before he joined GRM as a young mechanic as well as a driver in Super2 in 2015.
A relatively clean career in the feeder class soured a touch when he had a huge crash on his main-game debut at the 2016 Sandown 500. The crash put his past heroics under a crowd due to its circumstances; Golding binning GRM's second Volvo S60 on lap one after not slowing for a suspected front-right puncture.
Nonetheless, the 22-year-old's return to the series last year was far more polished; despite having spent most of the year away from the driver's seat. If he performs for the team this year; get used to it. There's every chance he could be the squad's future face.
Calling Stanaway a rookie in anything four-wheeled these days seems like something of a piss take. The Kiwi has given up a decorated career in Europe where he had a plum drive with Aston Martin's GT division, contrasted by the occasional stint in open-wheel categories like GP2.
Ironically, the 26-year-old's greatest achievement over there was one that scored barely any attention in New Zealand at the time. In 2010 he cleaned up the ADAC Formel Masters title, and in 2011 he won the German Formula 3 Championship, winning 13 races out of 18 and resetting the record for wins in a season (beating some dude named Michael Schumacher).
Yes, by all accounts Stanaway was on the radar of Formula 1. On a personal level, I believe he's the one that most deserved it from a talent perspective. But a scary crash at Spa in 2012 effectively ended any hopes of F1 aspirations.
It saw him shift into more of a GT focus, but three years down the line he already showed signs of wanting to return to Australasia — starting with a co-driver role at the short-lived Super Black Racing Supercars team. A swashbuckling drive in the wet on slick tyres got the paddock talking, and a year later he'd win the race with Cameron Waters.
Again he's with Prodrive, and though he's downplayed a lot of the pre-season hype, it's expected by many that he won't just be the leading rookie — be he'll also be in the picture for outright victories as the season progresses.
Either way, he and the four other rookies will be characters to watch.