It’s been a very wild west for the Supercars Championship as the series heads to Western Australia for the Perth SuperSprint as the third stop on this 2023 tour.
The epic Race 7 saw a pair of heavyweight bullies lock horns, as well as further tweaks on the Gen3 parity front and much-anticipated contract news for the reigning champion.
Here are the Perth SuperSprint talking points.
Race 7 epic but Erebus protest
Erebus Motorsport and championship leader Brody Kostecki’s form continued in Race 7 where it left off at the Melbourne SuperSprint as the Coca-Cola racer jumped into the lead from the front row.
Leading Shane van Gisbergen into Turn 1, Kostecki led the early stages of the race before the Red Bull Ampol Camaro hit back at Turn 17 as the Kiwi moved into Turn 7.
Kostecki took the field on the next lap to overtake van Gisbergen. Third-placed starter David Reynolds took advantage of a lap 17 crash to overtake Kostecki in the pit stop cycle, while the defending champion waited until lap 27 for his mandatory pit stop.
With a nine-lap tire difference, it was inevitable that van Gisbergen would overhaul Kostecki for the win. However, the 25-year-old was strong defensively, where he could cover from a rampaging Red Bull.
Neither driver let up as Race Control issued a caution to Kostecki for a bad sportsmanship flag for blocking on the penultimate lap. Van Gisbergen then went on to make the race-winning move at Turn 6, although it was not without question marks.
Erebus complained to the stewards after the race that they believed Red Bull should have been penalized for turning 6. The Kiwi powered his way through the inside of Kolb Corner, failing to replicate his race-winning move in Race 2 on Newcastle’s Chaz Mostert.
A more extreme version of what is colloquially considered a “bump and run” was seen in Race 8 when Anton DePasquale sent Reynolds sideways at Turn 7. For which DePasquale was penalized 15 seconds.
After Sunday morning’s hearing, it was announced before Race 9 that van Gisbergen would indeed retain his win from Saturday, with a steward’s statement saying:
A dominant one-two for Erebus in Race 8
After a dismal start to Saturday’s Perth SuperSprint, Will Brown turned his fortunes around in the first of Sunday’s two races to take a commanding victory from pole position and a first-ever one-two finish for Erebus.
Taking his first win since the 2021 Sydney Motorsport Park Four, Brown kept his Coca-Cola Camaro on the front row ahead of Reynolds despite the pair having even starts at the start.
Brown’s team-mate Kostecki then held off Reynolds at the end of the first lap before the Penrite Mustang crashed a lap later at Turn 7 when DePasquale sent him wide and dropped to 12th.
The pit stops played out with Kostecki pitted on lap 20 and Brown on lap 26, with van Gisbergen following the latter. From ninth on the grid, the 33-year-old Kiwi recovered to fifth, behind a much improved Mostert who was fourth.
However, it was Brown’s victory by 6.2 seconds ahead of Kostecki, whose result strengthened the Erebus team’s lead in the championship, as well as Broad’s lead in the drivers’ standings. James Courtney flew the flag for Tickford with his first podium of the season in third.
Feeney has three wins in four events
20-year-old Brock Feeney again showed his talent in Race 9 and exposed the fast Erebus cars, turning pole position into his third Supercars win and his third win in the last four events.
The Red Bull Ampol racer took his first win of the season to cap the 2022 Adelaide 500 in what has been an impressive rookie season for the championship-winning outfit. 2023 has so far seen the former Super2 champion continue to go from strength to strength, winning in Melbourne last time out and now Perth.
An even start with Brown at the front of the grid led to an exciting run into the first sequence of corners, but Feeney held off the Coca-Cola Camaro and held on to win by 6.8 seconds.
Also setting the fastest lap, Feeney scored 105 points, which saw the youngster move up to fifth in the standings, 220 behind Kostecki.
None of the Erebus cars had an answer to Feeney’s flawless run, emulating his predecessor in seven-time champion Jamie Whincup. Brown secured another podium, with winless Kostecki finishing third, still securing the most points of the round.
Parity adjustment after center of gravity test
After the Australian Grand Prix support round, where Chevrolet Camaros closed out the podium in all four races, Supercars held a CoG (center of gravity) test at Tickford Racing’s base in Melbourne’s inner north.
Nine cars were studied and a difference of 2.3 mm was found between the Camaro and the Ford Mustang, and so Supercars mandated weight redistribution in the Chevrolets to bring them on par with their Blue Oval rivals.
This meant that 4.9kg of ballast was redistributed to all fourteen Camaros at the Perth event. Weight has been moved to the rear of the car behind the fuel cell, meaning the overall minimum weight of 1,335kg has not changed.
Although the racing was competitive throughout, the benchmark operators were still Erebus Motorsport and the Red Bull Ampol Racing team. The Mustang collected a pair of podium finishes between Reynolds and Courtney, but the likes of Dick Johnson Racing again struggled.
Now testing the Gen3 cars at three unique circuits, the racing was excellent, as seen in the battle between Kostecki and van Gisbergen in Race 7. more simple.
Van Gisbergen signs with Triple Eight
The 33-year-old won’t be going anywhere beyond 2023, having signed a new multi-year deal with reigning team champions Red Bull Ampol Racing Team.
There was speculation late last year that van Gisbergen might leave Supercars to ply his trade in NASCAR if he was not satisfied with the new Gen3 regulations for the Australian touring car series.
While a possible NASCAR port could come with Trackhouse Racing’s Project91, the Kiwi has established his presence in Supercars with the team he has won three championships with, as well as two Bathurst 1000s.
Van Gisbergen found himself in the spotlight earlier this season after being criticized by former champion-turned-commentator Mark Skaife for his candid initial reaction to the Gen3 regulation. However, the Kiwi is keen to see the cars develop and accepts the challenge to continue to be the benchmark.
“All these challenges we’ve had with the new cars will hopefully be resolved as we continue to update the cars over the next few events,” said the reigning champion after announcing his re-signing.
“Those challenges are what keeps it fresh, and working with this team to understand those challenges and make the cars better is what I really enjoy.”
In an interview with Supercars’ Jess Yates, van Gisbergen allowed that he has “at least one more year here”, meaning that the multi-year deal may still be until the end of 2024.