Five bold predictions for 2021

08 Jan 2021
Upcoming season looms to be most unpredictable in years

The 2021 Repco Supercars Championship is coming in hot, and the upcoming season looms to be the most unpredictable in years.

Last year presented unprecedented challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but teams and drivers rose to the occasion and put on a show.

Just over seven weeks remain until the Mt Panorama 500 kicks off the new season, and almost all pieces of the puzzle are set.

New driver line-ups and teams will form a new-look grid, while venues which missed out due to the disrupted year will return.

How will it all unfold? Supercars.com lays down an early marker with five bold predictions for season 2021.

Two-pronged title fight for the ages

Through Scott McLaughlin’s absence, there will be a new champion for the first time since 2017. That year, Jamie Whincup pipped McLaughlin to the title.

Expect the key challenges in 2021, however, to come from across the Triple Eight garage in the form of Shane van Gisbergen, and Tickford's rising star Cameron Waters.

Both are facing key changes for the new season. Van Gisbergen has lost Walkinshaw Andretti United-bound engineer Grant McPherson, while Waters' team has downsized to three cars amid Lee Holdsworth's exit.

Van Gisbergen and McPherson were a formidable duo between 2016 and 2020, combining for 30 race wins and a drivers' title. Few can adapt to new challenges as quickly as 'the Giz', as he defied an early-season slump to win four of the last nine races in 2020.

Waters, meanwhile, is coming off a career-best season, finishing runner-up to McLaughlin. Should Tickford's narrowed focus with fewer cars pay dividends, the Monster Energy Mustang will be one to beat.

When the pressure's on, both drivers can deliver - look no further than their high-stakes, error-free Bathurst battle last year. Will SVG clinch his second title, or will Mildura's new hope win his first?

There will be at least another new race winner

Last year, Supercars.com correctly predicted there would be at least one new race winner in 2020, with Anton De Pasquale and Jack Le Brocq becoming the freshest names on the winners’ list.

The results marked the first new winners in the category since Scott Pye’s breakthrough at the 2018 Australian Grand Prix.

There were some standout performances in 2020 which went without victory, such as Andre Heimgartner and Todd Hazelwood’s impressive runs to the podium in Sydney behind Le Brocq.

Heimgartner was electric at times in his Kelly Racing Mustang, and will prove a handful with a year of Ford experience under his belt. Likewise for Hazelwood, as he enters his second season with Brad Jones Racing.

Walkinshaw Andretti United rookie Bryce Fullwood also showed strong pace at times, while the all-new Erebus line-up of Brodie Kostecki and Will Brown will look to keep the Holden team in the hunt.

The renaissance of Davison


Supercars.com also correctly predicted that top seats would change hands in 2020, with Dick Johnson Racing bringing in an all-new line-up following the departures of Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard.

Will Davison’s career has come full circle, with the two-time Bathurst winner returning to the team he left at the end of 2008.

Davison has unfinished business, both with DJR and in the category. He returned the famous team to winning ways in 2008 before leaving for the Holden Racing Team, and loomed as an outside title contender in 2020 with 23Red Racing before the team closed its doors.

Despite little seat time in 2020 following his 23Red exit, he still stood tall at Bathurst and nearly delivered a win for Cameron Waters and Tickford.

He’ll turn 39 in August, but don’t expect Davison to play second fiddle to fellow DJR recruit Anton De Pasquale en route to a top-five championship finish.

Team 18 to hit the top step

New drivers winning is one thing. A new winning team is another. Team 18 looms as the squad which will strike gold in 2021, having showed glimpses of brilliance in its first season as a two-car operation.

Mark Winterbottom will head into his third season with the Holden squad chasing his first podium for the team, and his first win since 2016. Few drivers on the grid will be more desperate to get results.

However, Scott Pye will also have a point to prove, having ended 2020 with the best average gain from starting position to race finish.

Expect the Team 18 cars to be more consistent across one-lap and race pace in 2021, with the team recruiting the experienced Richard Hollway as its head of engineering.

Should the planets align for Charlie Schwerkolt’s squad, expect trophies to head to Team 18's Mount Waverley workshop.

Coulthard to hit top form at Team Sydney

After five seasons with DJR Team Penske, Fabian Coulthard is taking on a new challenge with Team Sydney.

It’s a major coup for the Sydney-based team, with Coulthard bringing with him a superb CV which includes 13 race wins and 440 Supercars race starts.

After a formative maiden season with Chris Pither and Alex Davison, punctuated by James Courtney’s early exit, Team Sydney will be delighted to welcome Coulthard.

The Kiwi played a critical role in helping Dick Johnson Racing claim three teams’ championships. However, Coulthard appeared to lack confidence at times in Shell colours as Scott McLaughlin emerged as the dominant force.

Armed with leadership at Team Sydney, expect a renewed Coulthard to do everything in his power to take Team Sydney forward, from aggressive racecraft to all-out time attacks.

With decorated race engineer Dr Geoffrey Slater joining the team, Coulthard has a fresh chance to prove his worth on the grid.

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