01 MAR 2018
What to expect in 2018
What do I want to see in 2018
The battle to resume
If, like me, you found a replay of the season finale from Newcastle on replay on Foxtel over summer, its likely you also found yourself in a trance. Whilst we all know how the 2017 finale played out, the pressure and suspense of the finale round was incredible. I hope I'm not asking for too much, but I want another great battle, teams trading punches and drivers going head-to-head.
The greatest loss of running E85 fuel is the lack of visible flames blowing from the exhaust. But racing under lights at Sydney Motorsport Park in August will see the fire breathing Supercars return. Night racing, providing prime time exposure is a massive opportunity for the category. It is a shame free-to-air TV coverage was not secured for this round, but 2018 is an exciting test for years to come.
What do I expect to see in 2018?
McLaughlin to dominate qualifying again
McLaughlin regularly made the rest of the field appear slow in qualifying in 2017. Even if he loses a tenth, chances are McLaughlin will still romp home with the award for the best qualifier across the season.
The Championship to be red hot again
Prodrive, now Tickford Racing continued to improve as 2017 progressed. 888 had their challenges but were able to strike back. DJR Team Penske became the front runners and Teams Champion, but couldn't claim the drivers title. With more than half a dozen drivers capable of winning races from these three teams alone, the championship battle shapes as intense, intriguing and captivating for 2018.
What I hope to hear in 2018
Manufacturers committing to the sport
It doesn't much matter who, but hearing of manufactures committing to the sport in 2018 and beyond is the news the category is missing. Manufactures are a key commercial supporter of the category, hearing positive news from them will strengthen the category for the medium term.
What will the tyres do in 2018?
This could be the most important change to 2018.
Different teams and even drivers within teams adapted to the 2017 spec tyre to varying degrees. The 2016 spec tyres was slightly harder, thus slower, than the 2017 tyre. But blowouts like those seen at Phillip Island in 2017 meant a change was necessary. After 12 months of development away from the tyre, teams need to evolve their set-up to suit the different compound.
Likely no driver failed to adapt to the 2017 tyre more than Craig Lowndes. A win-less season that finished in disappointment with a pair of DNF's at Newcastle, Lowndes could be starting his final full-time season in 2018 if a return to the 2016 spec tyre doesn't aid an improvement in qualifying. I won't write off this champion, Lowndes can still challenge the front, even if it won't be every race.
What of the big three teams?
DJR Team Penske, Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Tickford Racing
DJR Team Penske enter 2018 as favourites. The reigning Teams Champions start the season with minimal change and the strong partnership of McLaughlin and Coulthard leading their charge. 888 have the unknown of the ZB Commodore, the areo change that brings as well as additional manufacturing responsibilities for some parts. Not insurmountable challenges, but enough going on that could cost them points. Tickford Racing were close to the pace in 2017, Mostert was a championship challenger, but lacked an edge and consistency. The championship battle is expected to take place with these teams.
What of the rest?
Can Nissan finally break through and consistently run in the top-5? Will BJR return to the winners circle? Can Erebus continue to improve and race at the front? What changes will Walkinshaw Andretti United make in 2018 to return to the winners circle and championship contenders in years too come? They are just some of the questions to be answered. Likely answers are no, yes, yes and many to the above questions.
What of the rookies?
5 rookies join the category full-time in 2018. Todd Hazelwood and Matt Stone Racing likely have the best pedigree of those joining, but Anton De Pasquale at Erebus may be the young driver to watch. De Pasquale has international experience and likely didn't have the best machinery in Super2. James Golding lines up alongside Garth Tander at GRM, as tough a yardstick to measure against as there is. Jack Le Brocq joins Tekno, with minimal commercial backing currently present, resources may be limited at the team. Richie Stanaway at Tickford Racing is favourite to lead this pack, he starred in wet conditions in the last two endurance seasons. But his pace in the dry brought him back to the pack. This could be the best group of rookies since McLaughlin, Mostert, Percat and Pye came through together.