The Debrief: Panorama perfection for SVG

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 05/03/2021
  • By James Pavey

The 2021 Repco Supercars Championship began the way season 2020 ended, with Shane van Gisbergen first to meet the chequered flag.

Through so much off-season change, from driver switches to team revamps, van Gisbergen's win at least proved there's some normalcy.

However, his rivals will want nothing of the sort, with the likes of Cameron Waters and Chaz Mostert keeping a close watching brief.

Supercars.com looks back at five talking points from the weekend that was.

Mountain conquered, but the big test remains

For the third time in his career, van Gisbergen completed a clean sweep to commence a new season.

Precedent suggests it won't go his way in 2021; when he swept the 2017 and 2018 season-openers in Adelaide, he failed to go on to win the title.

For all his success across multiple disciplines, van Gisbergen has made his name in Supercars, yet has only claimed one championship.

After his 2016 breakthough, which came in his maiden Triple Eight campaign, he has fallen short, with Scott McLaughlin emerging as the driver to beat between 2017 and 2020.

All the while, van Gisbergen lingered, but was unable to add to his 2016 title, coming closest in 2018. However, looking at his Bathurst double last weekend, you'd be a fool to suggest he won't be there come the Gold Coast finale in December.

He did it the hard way, on both days; on Saturday, he defied a fast-finishing Mostert, while he benefited from a quick out-lap and a Tickford misjudgment to defeat Waters on Sunday.

Regardless, he made it look easy in Bathurst, and while there is much more to play out, van Gisbergen made one hell of a statement.

In his post-race column for Supercars.com, Neil Crompton summed it perfectly: "God knows what will unfold as the season pans out. That’s the beauty of Supercar racing... but Shane will be a tough cookie to roll, and his Bathurst performance proved that."

WAU on the money

Mostert's move to Walkinshaw Andretti United paid dividends, with the 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner securing a top-five championship finish last year.

The team proved it has made more ground in the off-season, with second-year main game driver Bryce Fullwood helping the team to a top-five first in three years on the Saturday.

The next step for WAU is making sure its two cars are firing on all cylinders at every circuit in 2021. Mostert has long been touted as a future champion, and the ingredients are there for WAU to make it work this season.

Six straight podiums on the mountain prove WAU turn up on the big occasion, but you win championships across every round at different tracks.

From Sandown to Darwin, Sydney Motorsport Park to Tailem Bend, WAU has to get it right should Mostert finally claim an elusive championship.

With both cars impressing last weekend, and with engineering guru Grant McPherson still to arrive, there's little doubt they'll fall away in 2021.

DJR made the right choice with Davison

Many wrote him off even before he turned a wheel in 2021, yet Davison, who will turn 39 in August, believes he still has best racing ahead of him.

With McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard leaving Shell V-Power Racing, eyes turned to the new line-up of Davison and Anton De Pasquale, with the latter pencilled in as the heir apparent to McLaughlin.

However, Davison, who sat out the balance of 2020, hit the ground running and clinched a podium on his DJR return, 13 years on from his last stint with the team.

Davison has set a high bar for himself, and firmed for top fives on both days. In a new car, Davison excelled, with a Race 2 error fighting with Jamie Whincup is only blip of the weekend.

As De Pasquale licks his wounds following a Saturday accident, Davison is just 75 points from the championship lead.

"I was really happy to have qualified in the top five in both races. That was a huge tick. I got more and more comfortable in the car during every session," the two-time Bathurst 1000 winner wrote for Supercars.com.

"Everything ran smoothly. I completed every lap in the races, learned a lot about myself as a driver, and what I need from the team."

Slade and BRT, take a bow

In its championship debut, the Blanchard Racing team explored the dazzling highs and shattering lows of Supercars competition.

However, the performance of Tim Blanchard's new operation was one of, if not the story of the weekend, with Tim Slade a standout driver.

Slade's Race 1 accident, which ended the team's weekend early, was the obvious headline. However, Slade's remarkable front row start for the race, his first front row start in nearly five years, was an extraordinary achievement.

The team left Bathurst with zero points and a bent Mustang, but Slade's speed impressed many, few greater than Crompton: "For him to be out of a drive... then to come out last weekend and make such a statement, it was very impressive.

"It was against the grain for Tim and his team; it’s near-impossible, in most circumstances, to perform with a brand-new team with a new driver who is race-rusty, working with a new engineer in a new car."

Cam a genuine contender

Tickford Racing entered 2021 with a renewed focus, having downscaled to three cars in the off-season. After Bathurst, it emerged that Waters truly was the team's best hope to win its first title in six years.

A pole on Saturday and a podium on Sunday may make for good reading, but in the context of the Monster Energy Mustang pilot's weekend, it was a disappointment.

A power steering pump drama left Waters last of the classified runners on Saturday, while he lost the race following the first round of stops on Sunday. Heading to Sandown, he is already 117 points adrift of van Gisbergen.

However, along with van Gisbergen and Mostert, Waters was easily one of the quickest on track, proving his late-2020 speed was no fluke.

If you need any justification that Waters is a threat, then look no further than the furore sparked by his actions in the shootout on Sunday.

His rivals know he is armed with what he needs to get the job done; he simply needs to get the job done, and reliability and team performance will play a big role.

The Repco Supercars Championship field will return to Victoria for the Penrite Oil Sandown SuperSprint across March 20-21. Tickets are on sale now.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo. Check out the full TV schedule here.

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