Eyes may roll when people say Shane van Gisbergen is a shoo-in for the 2021 title, having won six races and enjoying a 190-point lead.
However, next weekend’s Merlin Darwin Triple Crown could prove another defining weekend in the 2021 title fight, if history is anything to go by.
For all of van Gisbergen’s early season dominance, he hasn’t won since April’s Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint.
There have been five different winners in as many races since the Red Bull Ampol Racing driver claimed the Symmons Plains opener.
WATCH: NINE SEARING DARWIN MOMENTS
Six winners in six races hasn’t happened for three years, and that year, the title fight went down to the final race of the season.
The Saturday sprint at Hidden Valley Raceway next weekend will be the 12th race of the 2021 season.
In 21 completed seasons since 2000, only seven times have there been seven or more different winners in the first 12 races.
The benchmark lies with season 2016; with Michael Caruso’s Saturday win in Darwin, 10 drivers had shared the first 12 race wins.
Only Scott McLaughlin (Phillip Island) and Tim Slade (Winton) had claimed multiple wins through 12 races.
The 2014 season saw eight different winners through 12 races, one more than the seven-win seasons of 2001, 2004, 2006, 2013 and 2015.
Van Gisbergen still leads, but for how much longer?
A new winner in the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown opener, and season 2021 will have had seven different winners.
Critically, there will also have been seven different winners in seven races dating back to van Gisbergen’s Race 6 win in Tasmania.
You have to go back to 2017 to find a string of seven different winners in as many races, which can be matched at the Winton SuperSprint next weekend.
It came after 2017 opened with just four different winners in the opening 12 races, proving a season can be opened up from anywhere.
The all-time record of nine winners in nine straight races, set in 2013 from Race 19 to Race 27, can also be matched at Hidden Valley.
The chances of the markers being matched next weekend are high, with the new Dunlop Super Soft tyre compound to shake the pecking order.
Tailem Bend saw some funky podium trios
Kelly Grove Racing’s David Reynolds is a two-time winner in Darwin, with teammate Andre Heimgartner winning last time out at The Bend Motorsport Park.
Will Davison has never won in Darwin, but he is in good form, and his Shell V-Power Racing Team has won nine of the last 12 races at Hidden Valley.
Nick Percat (Brad Jones Racing) and Scott Pye (Team 18) both scored Darwin podiums last year, with Pye’s teammate Mark Winterbottom a four-time Darwin winner.
They are five names who could easily rise to the top in Darwin, but as ever, the margins will be tight.
The Repco Supercars Championship field will return to the Northern Territory for the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown across June 18-20. Tickets are available here.
The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo, and will be broadcast live and free on Seven.
Most different winners through 12 races (since 2000)
7: 2001, 2005, 2006, 2013, 2015
6: 2004, 2011, 2018
5: 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2020
4: 2002, 2008, 2017, 2019
3: 2010, 2012