Newcastle is arguably the toughest circuit to overtake on in Supercars — just don’t ask Scott Pye.
Next weekend’s Thrifty Newcastle 500 will host the first races of the Gen3 era, and Newcastle’s first races since 2019.
Many have dismissed the 2.6km circuit as one that promotes overtaking, but Newcastle has demonstrated it is fit for the brave.
In just three years, Newcastle was the scene of nine individual efforts of 10 or more positions gained in a race.
Pye has done it three times — one each year — with his epic charge from 24th to sixth Newcastle’s best.
Critically, Pye’s run from last in the 2019 opener came in a 95-lap race which ran green for its entirety — and just hours after he was discharged from hospital.
A stomach bug saw Pye miss Practice 2 and spend Friday night in hospital. He returned on Saturday, but crashed in qualifying and started from the rear.
From there, he reeled off several overtakes — including late lunges on Jamie Whincup and James Courtney at the same corner — to finish sixth.
The then-Walkinshaw Andretti United driver was into the top 10 during the first round of stops, dropped out of the top 20, before keeping a strong pace to be a factor late on.
Pye did much of his best work at Turn 8, while Turn 2 and the Turn 11 hairpin also present primary overtaking opportunities.
He also executed a sensational move on Andre Heimgartner at the right-hand Turn 12.
“I love the place,” Pye reflected to Supercars.com.
“Any street circuit is hard not to look forward to — they offer so much opportunity for good racing.
“I had a tough one in ’19 when I crashed in qualifying, but I managed to come through in the race under green from 24th.
“It is a track you can overtake. It’s one I love going to.”
Heimgartner also gained 18 spots in a race back in 2018, when he charged from 26th to eighth.
In the same race, Mark Winterbottom raced from 22nd to sixth.
Pye reels off a pass in 2018
While there are still several unknowns regarding Gen3 on street circuits, Pye is confident he can carry his late 2022 form into the new era after a strong test day.
Pye had top five pace on the Gold Coast, before qualifying on the front row in Adelaide to see out 2022.
“We finished the year in Adelaide, and had a good showing,” said Pye, who is one of three active drivers to have completed every racing lap in Newcastle.
“Hopefully start on the same foot we left off — P2 in qualifying — hopefully we roll out with strong cars, and both of us can be fighting to start the season.
“It is a lot of laps — 95 laps both days — and to have completed every one is good.
“One year, I spent the lead-up in hospital — when I crashed in qualifying, I left hospital that morning.
“That was an event I was expecting to miss, but you do everything you can to be in the car — it ended up being a dream weekend.
“You have to stay out of trouble and play the long. It’s 95 laps. It’s a similar mentality to Bathurst — you’re not out of it until the chequered flag.”
The 2023 Repco Supercars Championship will commence at the Thrifty Newcastle 500 on March 10-12.
Tickets are on sale on Supercars.com and Ticketek.com.
Gains of 10-plus positions in Newcastle
18 positions: Scott Pye, 24th to 6th (2019 Saturday) 18 positions: Andre Heimgartner, 26th to 8th (2018 Saturday) 16 positions: Mark Winterbottom, 22nd to 6th (2018 Saturday) 14 positions: Shane van Gisbergen, 21st to 7th (2019 Sunday) 14 positions: Lee Holdsworth, 18th to 4th (2017 Saturday) 13 positions: Scott Pye, 23rd to 10th (2018 Sunday) 12 positions: Tim Slade, 15th to 3rd (2017 Saturday) 12 positions: Tim Blanchard, 24th to 12th (2017 Saturday) 10 positions: Scott Pye, 17th to 7th (2017 Saturday)