What to expect from the Australian Supercars Championship in 2021?
My predictions for the year ahead of the opening round at Bathurst
The motorsport world is really starting to get going in 2021, with some races already having taken place, plus rafts of team launches being done, or coming very soon. Then, next weekend marks the start of Australia’s premier motorsport series, the long running touring car series will kick off on the iconic Mount Panorama Circuit, before travelling around the country, and hopefully New Zealand, before returning to The Mountain for ‘The Great Race’. So, what could 2021 hold for the sport?
Well, many changes have occurred over the off season, ahead of this year, and more are due very soon, the major one is McLaughlin’s departure from the sport as champion, to go and pursue IndyCar. This has left a vacuum at the top of the sport, which many drivers will want to fill, in theory Waters, who was second in the title race last year, would be favourite to fill that void. I would agree that he is definitely in the fight for the title, we saw that the Ford was fast last year, and Cam is getting stronger as time goes on. Most importantly though, he was consistent, he didn’t score a win until the second to last race, instead it was his good finishes that kept him up the leader board.
The main threat to Cam could be from Triple Eight, who pushed both him and Scott for most of last year, scoring their usual haul of wins. This is a big year for the team, their last ever with a Holden, even if it isn’t factory backed any more, add to that the knowledge that Whincup, an all time great of the sport, will leave at the end of the year, could work either way for the team. I can see the team working non-stop to end on a high, yet we could also see an implosion due to the pressure on them, given how many people will see them as favourites. Most likely they will be strong, given the people who are working there, so watch out for them this year.
What about Dick Johnson Racing? The team are still the reigning champions, although there is much change at the team, the withdrawal of Team Penske will surely have an affect on them, even if they try and hide it as best they can. Then an all new driver line on top of that could mean it takes time to get back to the front, given how competitive the sport is. Having said that, with the team management staying constant, as well as their partners, any loss in pace will only be minor most likely. Also, like I said with Waters, they have the Ford under them, which McLaughlin was so strong in, and they will have all his data to understand how he was quick, so with two fast drivers of De Pasquale and Davison, don’t underestimate them too much, at the very least they could be a dark horse.
Looking elsewhere on the grid, drivers like Mostert and Heimgartner will want to build on their 2020 campaign, and for Kelly Racing, what will the departure of Rick mean for the team, can Reynolds fill the void he has left, if not it could be a tough year for them. One driver I would look out for is Bryce Fullwood, who completed his rookie campaign last year, and whilst he did not set the world on fire, we saw glimpses of amazing pace, so who knows what he can do. I don’t think the title is in his grasp this year, but wins could well be coming his way.
The decision to keep the 2020 race format is a good call in my opinion, whilst it was done out of necessity due the situation last year, the short races allow more action over a weekend, without making it feel artificial. The introduction of the super soft tyre should only further aid the brilliant action we saw last year, on those circuits which need the higher tyre wear. Having only one Enduro race is a shame, as they do add an extra complexion to the championship, it is understandable though, as they want to keep the format simpler at the moment, and reduce the amount of people who need to be present at the track.
My prediction for the 2021 season, will be that Van Gisbergen will win the title, given how well he finished the 2020 season, I think he will continue the momentum whilst others are getting up to speed. It will be helped by the fact that the first two races are where he won the 1000 last year. Waters and Whincup will be close behind, with some surprise names also in the fight. For ‘The Great Race’, I will go bold and say Fullwood, it’s unlikely but I could see it happening.
I just can’t wait for another year of bumper to bumper, door to door, high speed drama, from a world class touring car series!