This weekend’s Coates Hire Newcastle 500 will see Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen lock horns as they battle for the 2018 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
The pair are split by just 14 points after 28 completed races, and with 300 points on offer on the streets of Newcastle it’s anyone’s game heading into the weekend.
All season there’s been little to separate them, with both McLaughlin and van Gisbergen enjoying periods of dominance.
During the 14 races from the Sunday at Symmons Plains to the inaugural race at The Bend Motorsport Park, McLaughlin was off the podium just once, taking four consecutive wins and six in total during that time.
It’s a similarly impressive record for van Gisbergen, who finished either first or second in every race from Townsville to Sandown with a hat-trick of wins to his name in that eight race period.
At Pukekohe last time out they each took a win and second placing, meaning they left New Zealand split by exactly the same number of points as when they’d arrived.
And so we head to Newcastle, where twelve months ago the championship was decided in the most dramatic of circumstances.
This year the same teams will battle it out, but with van Gisbergen in the Red Bull Holden Racing Team corner ably supported by last year’s champ and outgoing legend Craig Lowndes.
Next door in the Shell V-Power Racing garage, McLaughlin will have the support of Fabian Coulthard should it be needed.
At Pukekohe van Gisbergen benefited from Whincup apparently struggling for fuel on the final lap, leading Supercars to clarify regulations surrounding team orders.
It paints a fascinating picture heading into the event, at the conclusion of which we will crown a New Zealander champion, for the second time in three years.
The question is, who will it be?
Can McLaughlin seal a maiden crown and send the Falcon off with one last victory, or will van Gisbergen deny him to take a second title and hand the all-new ZB Commodore its first championship?
Cas your vote in this week’s PIRTEK Poll.