Newcastle was the perfect spot to finish the 2017 Supercars Championship, as the Newcastle 500 saw 192,000 fans flock to the seaside circuit over the weekend.
For Mark Winterbottom, it was a weekend of consistent racing, which was exemplified by a fourth place finish in the top 10 shootout.
For Cameron Waters, it was not the way he would have wanted to end 2017. The Sandown 500 Champion has enjoyed a breakout year in 2017 and while he would be disappointed in his 23rd place in Race 26, the country kid from Mildura will take confidence in a year that provided many highlights.
Chaz Mostert had a career best season and while Race 26 was a stark contrast to the way he has driven for the majority of 2017, he would be relatively pleased with a top five result in the Supercars Championship standings.
As the sun sets on the 2017 Supercars season, the team will be looking to start 2018 in the best way possible, hitting the streets of Adelaide in Mad March to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Adelaide 500.
Misfortune in the early going of Race 25 at the inaugural Newcastle 500 disrupted Prodrive Racing (Australia)’s performance on Saturday, rendering what could have been a strong day into an underwhelming result. Chaz Mostert (#55 Supercheap Auto FG X) led the team to the chequered flag with a sixth place finish, having kept clean amidst a pack of cars for a majority of the afternoon.
With the pits open, both Mark Winterbottom (#5 The Bottle-O FG X) and Cameron Waters (#6 Monster Energy FG X) encountered problems on pit lane as a majority of the field came to pit road under the safety car. A slow stop for Winterbottom delayed the queuing Waters and dropped the pair to the back of the field, with Winterbottom’s run ending when he incurred damage on Lap 74 in contact with Car 34 at Turn 2. The damage cost the 2015 Champion two laps en route to a 17th place finish. Turning to an alternative strategy mid-race, Waters recovered to finish 13th, advancing six spots from his starting position.
#5 The Bottle-O PRA Ford
Qualifying: 11th, 1m10.24s
Race 25: 17th
“The track is very limited to passing, so when we came into the pits about eighth and came out 20th it sort of ruined our race. From there, you’re just trying to hold on and try to claw your way back in. We made some good moves, but you just can’t make mistakes in this category, it puts you too far back. It’s tough to pass so you need to qualify well, but on the flip side you need to be trouble free. The track’s good, it’s tough, very physical. I had no drink bottle and no helmet fan today, so it was quite physical in that race, but we want big results, and that just means qualifying’s so important. We’ll try to have a better day tomorrow.”
#6 Monster Energy PRA Ford
Qualifying: 19th, 1m10.45s
Race 25: 13th
“Obviously the first stop killed us a bit, but we fought back anyway. Once we got clean air and got up front I was able to drive away for a while, so that was promising, it was good to kind of get back to a half decent result from the back of the field. I think our pace was okay, the points from sixth to eighth are really tight, so we’ll see if we can make it better for the finale.”
#55 Supercheap Auto PRA Ford
Qualifying: 10th, 1m10.22s
Race 25: 6th
“Tough day. We didn’t qualify that well, we were tenth, and just tried to stay out of trouble. There’s a lot of rubber on the track because it’s not that wide, so if you go just a little bit off line you could be in really big trouble. It was really hard to pass, not high tyre degradation because the track surface is so smooth, so basically the race was in the pits and strategy-based. I don’t think we had a bad strategy, but that pit lane is so narrow, and being mid-pack in the pit lane really hurt us; I got stuck sitting there for several seconds on the first stop. Not a bad day for points, but definitely want to get a trophy. Just wasn’t completely our day, I think we need to make our car a little bit better, but saying that it looks like everyone was struggling some way or another. Overall, not a bad day.”
“Everyone had something go wrong today, which obviously hurt us quite a bit. The team gave a good effort to recover from those issues, but it’s not a great feeling to have only one car in the top ten. Tomorrow’s a new day, so we’ll diagnose whatever needs changing overnight, and leave it all on the track tomorrow.”
While the conclusion of the 2017 Supercars season finished in thrilling fashion, Prodrive Racing (Australia)’s inaugural run at the Newcastle 500 was one to forget as a problematic Sunday compounded a frustrating Saturday to end the 14-round campaign on a sour note.
The Bottle-O racer Mark Winterbottom (#5 FG X) led the way for PRA with a seventh place finish in the season finale. Winterbottom scored the provisional pole in group qualifying Sunday morning, and later qualified fourth in the Top Ten Shootout before pit strategy worked against the veteran in the 95-lap race.
Sunday for Cameron Waters (#6 Monster Energy FG X) and Chaz Mostert (#55 Supercheap Auto) concluded with disappointing results, as Waters was dealt contact on Lap 52 that damaged and bent his steering, ultimately finishing 23rd off the lead lap. Mostert was handed a pit lane penalty on Lap 24 for crossing the yellow line at pit exit during his Lap 22 stop, and scrambled back to 15th at the chequered flag.
Prodrive Racing and the rest of the Supercars field return to competition March 1-4, 2018, with the historic Adelaide 500.
#5 The Bottle-O PRA Ford
Qualifying: 1st, 1m10.20s
Top Ten Shootout: 4th, 1m11.0
Race 26: 7th
“We had good pace, it’s just that the strategy didn’t play out for us the way it should have. We had cars coming out of pit lane and holding us up, and they cost you seconds and seconds. We had a car for probably third, but the strategy didn’t fall our way. Once we were back there it was just nose to tail to the end. We got P6 in the points, so it was good to move forward. Pretty good day overall, provisional pole, fourth in the shootout, so it’s a nice way to go into Christmas and starting towards next year.”
#6 Monster Energy PRA Ford
Qualifying: 12th, 1m10.63s
Top Ten Shootout: n/a
Race 26: 23rd
“Overall looking at the positives, it was a much better year than last year. Eighth in the points, got a win, podiums, poles, so we ticked a lot of goals we wanted to at the beginning of the year, so that was cool. Today’s result was a pretty bad way to finish the year. Spent a lot of the day stuck behind slower cars, and in the final stint (Garth) Tander just moved over on me under brakes while I was trying to pass him and bent the steering arm. Not sure where he was expecting me to go, but it is what it is. Tough end to a very good year, and we’ll look to go better in 2018.”
#55 Supercheap Auto PRA Ford
Qualifying: 7th, 1m10.44s
Top Ten Shootout: 9th, 1m11.35s
Race 26: 15th
“Not our day at all today. It was good to get into the shootout, but we didn’t have the pace for pole. We were hoping to make some ground on pit strategy, but I clipped the yellow line exiting the pits and copped a penalty. After that it was about trying to pass cars which obviously is super hard here. Overall I’m happy with the year, P5 in the championship. It’s the best finish I’ve had in the championship to date, so I’m pretty pumped about that. Saying that, I want to win a championship, and I think we’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason. Still, this year’s been leaps and bounds better than last year, and I can’t wait for 2018.”
“Another tough day all around for the team. Frosty drove well but that was about the only thing going for us today, even our Super2 teams had dramas. It’s not the way we wanted to end 2017, but at the same time we’ve made big strides over last season and expect to make more progress in the offseason. With a season like we’ve had a finish like we’ve had, we’re probably looking forward to 2018 as keenly as anyone in the paddock.”
1) Jamie Whincup: 3042 points
2) Scott McLaughlin: 3021
3) Fabian Coulthard: 2812
5) Chaz Mostert: 2748
6) Mark Winterbottom: 2208
8) Cameron Waters: 2173
Team Championship Points
1) DJR Team Penske: 5868 points
2) Triple Eight: 5811
3) Prodrive Racing Australia: 4416