Expert Eye: Team-mate battles to watch in 2018

  • 24/02/2018
  • By Supercars.com
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

The first goal for every driver is to beat their team-mate. The first rule in every team is don’t hit your team-mate.

Head-to-head team-mate battles are the purest comparison of driving ability, with equal equipment and equal opportunity to shine.

Allowing limited excuses and nowhere to hide within the team garage, they can also provide the most angst.

Ahead of the new season, we asked five Supercars experts which team-mate rivalry they’re looking forward to the most in 2018.

Mark Skaife - Supercars legend, Fox Sports commentator

Jamie Whincup vs Shane van Gisbergen (Red Bull Holden Racing Team)

Redbull-team-mates

I’m most looking forward to this battle that continues to fire up and – from an overall performance standpoint – assist both guys, which is the van Gisbergen and Whincup one.

When I look at the level of vigour, how hard they drive the cars and now being the factory team, it reminds me of when Craig Lowndes and I were team-mates.

At the end of the day there’s a lot to be said for that competition. It makes people work harder and apply themselves better to the task, which is what we saw from Whincup in 2017.

But you have to remember that last year there were weekends where van Gisbergen was unstoppable, like in Adelaide.

He just blew everyone away there and I thought after that first event it was going to be a Shane-fest and he was going to smash the field.

The competition between these two is so powerful and I think it boded well last year for Whincup. It dragged the most out of him.

John Bowe – Supercars legend, Touring Car Masters competitor

Chaz Mostert vs Mark Winterbottom vs Cameron Waters vs Richie Stanaway (Tickford Racing)

Tickford-2018

For me it’s the battle between the team-mates at Tickford, because they’re all very high-level, well credentialed drivers.

One, Winterbottom, has won a championship and has always been great at his craft and now he’s got all these youngsters around him. And he’s not even old himself!

That’s a fascinating line-up and as a team, if they can run four cars successfully without any of the four drivers feeling like they’ve been short-changed in any way, they deserve a knighthood.

They have four potentially winning cars and winning drivers so that will be the most interesting scenario to witness, seeing who pops out, as Barry Sheene used to say, in the pound seats.

It’s a fine line for the drivers, because they need to get on for the team to go well, but your direct comparison is always your team-mate, which is amplified here with four cars.

Whoever comes out on top of that group won’t just do so because of driving ability, it’ll be about engineering ability and all sorts of things. It’s going to be fascinating.

Stefan Bartholomaeus - Supercars.com editor

Tim Slade vs Nick Percat (Brad Jones Racing)

BJR-team-mates

The battle between these two South Aussies won’t get the attention of the team-mate tussles at Red Bull and Tickford, but it’s promising to be just as hard fought.

Percat’s arrival at BJR last year finally looked like his shot at being a consistent front-runner, but reality proved to be anything but.

By the end of a generally trying 2017 for the team, the points tally read Slade 11th and Percat 19th – a margin that spoke of both Slade’s ability and Percat’s magnetism for trouble.

In qualifying, though, they could hardly have been more evenly matched. Slade got the nod on qualifying averages, 11.31 to 12.58, but Percat qualified ahead 14 times to 12.

With BJR investing in KRE engines for this year and having a reputation for adapting well to major change – which comes with the ZB body – there may be bigger prizes to play for in 2018.

Based on the potential of the two drivers, who steps up on BJR’s good days and grabs the gold is anyone’s guess.

The other element of this battle is the bigger picture at play because, with two career wins apiece at 32 (Slade) and 29 (Percat), both still have more promise than results.

A new wave of youngsters arrives this year and, whatever BJR’s position in the pecking order, Slade and Percat need to make the most of every opportunity if their careers are to progress.

Mitchell Adam – Supercars.com senior writer

Scott McLaughlin vs Fabian Coulthard (Shell V-Power Racing)

Penske-team-mates

This entry isn’t 12 months late, written for when Scott McLaughlin joined Fabian Coulthard at Shell V-Power Racing.

This is about how Coulthard responds to the new kid on the block squarely showing him the way last year, in this second season of their partnership.

Coulthard finished third in the 2017 championship, only one place behind McLaughlin, in a career-best. 

He led the standings deep into October, and nearly doubled his career victory tally with four, including Penske’s first in Supercars.

So Coulthard, who also became a dad for the first time and secured a contract extension, had a pretty good second season with the team. 

The problem was, the bloke in the other Shell Ford was an absolute star.

McLaughlin won eight races, took a new-record of 16 pole positions to Coulthard’s one, and so very nearly claimed a maiden championship.

It sets up an interesting battle between the pair in 2018, and most of the intrigue is around Coulthard.

His long-term partnership with race engineer Phil Keed is over, nearly six years after it was formed at Brad Jones Racing, and he now has team stalwart Mark Fenning taking the reins. 

Those relationships can take a little bit of time to gel, but the change and fresh impetus could be what Coulthard needs.

With 10 to six, Coulthard actually led the championship at the end of more races than McLaughlin last year, but he got towelled up 23 to three in head-to-head qualifying. 

Admittedly, McLaughlin was the qualifying king in 2017, but this battle will be worth watching to see how Coulthard responds. 

Jack Perkins – Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing co-driver, Network Ten presenter/commentator

Mostert vs Winterbottom vs Waters vs Stanaway (Tickford Racing)

Tickford-2018

There’s going to be some great battles amongst team-mates this year but I think the line-up at Tickford Racing is the one I’ll keep an eye on.

Mark Winterbottom is now in his 15th season and is very much the benchmark, or the corner stone, of that operation.

Chaz Mostert, though, has cemented himself as one of the best drivers in the category and led the team last year.

When you add Cam Waters and Richie Stanaway to the mix you’ve got four very good drivers under one roof.

Cam had a ripper 2017 and will look to improve that this year in his second season with his engineer Brad Wischusen.

Mark, Chaz and Cam then provide an excellent benchmark for the rookie Stanaway, who steps up from co-driving.

It will be a fascinating battle to watch who can win the ‘Tickford Racing Cup’ after each qualifying session and indeed race.

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