ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 02: David Reynolds drives the #9 Erebus Penrite Racing Holden Commodore ZB leads Garth Tander drives the #33 Wilson Security Racing GRM Holden Commodore ZB during race 2 for the Supercars Adelaide 500 on March 2, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

In the International spotlight, while the Formula 1 ‘show’ was booked to open their season in Melbourne, the V8 Supercars light-up their tyres at the Australian GP. With a handful of races, the mix of race winners was a delight for fans, and demonstrated the close-contact racing of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

V8 Supercars ‘light-up their tyres’ at Australian GP

That mix showed how closely the racing is in this category. Completely different to high-speed, down force dominated world of Formula 1 (F1). In the touring cars category, the huge six litre engines have to push around large sedans, and the close racing brings both excitement, as well as plenty of overtaking opportunity.

V8 Supercars entertain fans in Melbourne

For the big crowd on hand for the 2018 F1 championship, a wealth of support races made for an entertaining Saturday. With the Porsche Carrera Cup, Australian GT and Supercars championship – all a part of the Australian support classes.

There was also the popular Ferrari Challenge series. Split divided into three continental series: Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. Following the F1 circuit, each of the regional series enjoys at least one GP event on their calendar.

For the Virgin Australia V8 Supercars, Melbourne was the ideal setting for drivers to ‘light-up their tyres’ at the Australian GP. Four races were scheduled for the Coates Hire Melbourne 400, which formed the second leg of the championship [race number of calendar in brackets].

All qualifying was completed over Thursday and Friday, the start of the four races would allow workers in Melbourne to finish work early, to set themselves up to enjoy the annual battle around the Albert Park circuit.

Race 1 – Friday March 23

Friday was official race three of the championship, and after Shane van Gisbergen had ‘cleaned up’ at the Adelaide 500, the first race was short and had all the gun drivers at the ready.

In the afternoon sun, this race showed that in the short sprint races of 2018, the sharp shooter of Shell V Power Racing, Scott McLaughlin would shine as he did so well in 2017.

Winner [Race 3] – Scott McLaughlan, DJR Team Penske

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Race 2 – Saturday March 24 (12:40pm)

Race car drivers and fans each awoke Saturday, to find that the weather had changed. The state of Victoria had been in an end of summer heat wave, yet on the Australian GP weekend, it chose to rain. And rain hard!

The track had not seen any sight of water, so by the time the cars hit the circuit, it was ‘unknown conditions’. And when the going gets tough, the champions shine through.

Winner [Race 4] – Jamie Whincup, Red Bull Holden Racing

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Race 3 – Saturday March 24 (6:20pm)

If the earlier race was seen as dangerous, for the surface water and unknown conditions, then the timing of the final race on Saturday was completely ‘out of the blue’.

That was in both the track conditions, but also in regards to the race start time. The flag was dropped at 6:20pm local time, but with the weather closing in, fans found that the 23 lap schedule ended with cars using their own lights navigation purposes, such was the unseasonable conditions.

The F1 cars had their final qualifying session at 5pm, so if the rain had stayed away, the late afternoon/dusk setting may have looked good on paper. But from a drivers position, once the ‘gloomy weather’ set in, it was an eerily dangerous time to race a V8 Supercar.

Walkinshaw Andretti United get first Race Victory

So too, the qualifying for teams would earn drivers a benefit. Plus, tyre selection also played it’s part. So while DJR Team Penske suffered from a strategy to ‘dive into the pits’ for wet tyres, others were able to be rewarded for brave decisions out on the track.

The eventual race winner, young kiwi driver Scott Pye had the confidence of his engineers, that when he was leading Jamie Whincup, the team had every confidence that he would stay in front. And in some of the spookiest driving conditions; wet, dark and fraught with pressure, the Walkinshaw Andretti United team would place a marker down, for their presence in V8 Supercars.

Winner [Race 5] Scott Pye, Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing

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Race 4 – Sunday March 25

To round out the schedule, race number four was timed for perfect conditions. After the rain had passed, the sun was out and drivers benefited from an extremely short race. Planned for only 12 laps, the mid-afternoon had them lapping in front of a near capacity crowd.

If the support wasn’t strong enough, the racing proved to be classic. The start was where the race was won, with Erebus Penrite Racing’s David Reynolds out flanking the pole sitter, Jamie Whincup.

That position was then pounced on by Nick Percat, who surprised some on Saturday. The Brad Jones Racing entry had pace, and put his Holden ZB in front of Whincup, to prove that the range of drivers would hold their own. Although, with limited laps and a safety car in the ninth lap, passing opportunities were limited.

And Reynolds held his place til the flag dropped on lap 12 of 13.

Winner [Race Six] – David Reynolds, Erebus Penrite Racing

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Much can be said of the five different winners, over the opening six races. Great for the entertainment and great for the sponsors, but if this continues then the points will be more valuable than an Lewis Hamilton autograph.

The Australian Grand Prix has seen the V8 Supercars as a ‘support act’ for the last few years. And gladly for the championship, it is now a full round of the season. Four races are possibly too many, and the random nature of the second race on Saturday might see the schedule altered in the future.

Looking at the championship, van Gisbergen still holds his high placing (see below). And while he started from the rear of the grid in Race 4, he managed to pass 13 cars before the flag fell. Still looking like the impressive driver that everyone wants to beat, Reynolds now has more confidence and the variety of winners is great for the championship.

From the results, the 2018 Holden Commodore also has an slight edge over the Ford’s…..but with every day of racing, more data is collected and the adoption of composite panels are all points that suggest the Falcon will bounce back.

The 2018 Virgin Australia Supercars championship continues, as the teams enjoy the short Easter break before lining up the Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint, April 6-8.

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