The Supercars Championship is poised on a knife edge with one event remaining, and Speedcafe.com has produced an interactive calculator to help you determine which way the title will fall.
Last year’s runner-up Scott McLaughlin takes a 14-point lead over 2016 champion Shane van Gisbergen to Newcastle, meaning that the title race will likely still be alive at the start of Sunday’s final race of the season.
For McLaughlin to effectively seal the title on Saturday, he must finish first or second and van Gisbergen must fail to finish.
If that does not happen, there are any number of scenarios which could play out.
As was the case at Pukekohe, if van Gisbergen is to win Race 30 on the Saturday and McLaughlin finish second, the latter’s lead will be snipped to just two points.
Should that come to pass, Sunday’s Race 31 becomes a simple case of he who finishes higher becoming the champion.
That requirement still applies if van Gisbergen is the last finisher in Race 31, regardless of how many finishers there are.
The quirky scenario of the championship leader still having to beat the last-placed ‘chaser’ applies in any case when there are less than three points between the two drivers come Saturday night.
For all the other possibilities, download Speedcafe.com’s Championship Calculator and test for yourself what the critical finishing position in on Sunday, based on what you think will happen on Saturday; simply enter a position (1 to 26 or ‘DNF’) in each of the orange boxes.
You can even keep the calculator beside you and update it during Saturday’s first 250km race to see which way the championship is swinging.
CLICK HERE to download the free Speedcafe.com 2018 Supercars Championship Calculator.
The story so far
McLaughlin’s slight edge over van Gisbergen on the points table is reflected in the other statistics for the year to date.
The Shell V-Power Racing driver has eight race wins to his Red Bull Holden Racing Team rival’s seven, having qualified on Armor All Pole Position 13 times compared to van Gisbergen’s five.
McLaughlin has, once again, been the benchmark qualifier in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship with an average starting position of 3.45, more than two positions better than van Gisbergen’s average start (Figures include Sunday’s Qualifying and Top 10 Shootout on the Gold Coast, before the race was washed out).
The Triple Eight driver has clawed back most of that ground when the lights go out, however, with an average finishing position of 4.46, which is only 0.64 positions lower than McLaughlin’s average.
While 0.64 positions still seems like a lot for a 14-point margin over the course of 28 completed races, it is noteworthy that his equal-second-worst results of the season, 13th position, came in two of the Melbourne 400 races, which count for less than races at any other event of the year due to their shorter distance and the four-race format.
Van Gisbergen has only one other finish outside the top 10, when he had a brake balance bar failure at Symmons Plains and managed to guide Car #97 home in 25th position.
It has been his most costly race of the season by a long way, dumping him from first to fifth in the championship as he gave up 108 points to race runner-up McLaughlin; at least 60 more points than he gave up to Car #17 in any other race all season.
While van Gisbergen’s 24 top sixes and a 10th position finish in 28 races is impressive, McLaughlin has an astonishing 27 top 10s out of 28.
His other result, a 15th in Race 5 at Albert Park, came after an off early in the race followed by a gamble on wet tyres which didn’t pay dividends.
To make the point clear, neither driver has failed to finish any race all year, and van Gisbergen is 30 points the better for his survival job in Tasmania.
Despite each having their relative hot streaks and dry spells, no more than 161 points, equivalent to just over half an event, has separated the fast Kiwis all year.
If the event’s short history is any guide, anything could happen in Newcastle.
However, it is worth considering that van Gisbergen has tended to perform comparatively better on street circuits than McLaughlin, with an average finish of 0.20 positions worse (5.20 versus 5.40).
If we remove Bathurst and Albert Park, however, given that they are arguably not ‘true’ street circuits, the metric tips in van Gisbergen’s favour with an average finish of 3.00 versus McLaughlin’s 4.80.
Furthermore, three of van Gisbergen’s wins have come from street circuits (two in Adelaide and one in Townsville, when he also finished second on the Saturday), compared to one for McLaughlin in the Albert Park opener.
The Armor All Top 10 Shootout also comes into play on Sunday, and it is that format in which van Gisbergen has achieved three of his five poles compared to just one for McLaughlin, despite McLaughlin making all eight shootouts and van Gisbergen missing out on one.
All in all, it sets up a fascinating showdown when the Coates Hire Newcastle 500 begins this Friday.
CLICK HERE to download the Speedcafe.com Supercars Championship infographic.