POLL: The biggest surprise packet at Bathurst
Monday 1st March, 2021 - 2:20pm
There were plenty of storylines out of the Repco Supercars Championship season opener, including a handful of impressive performances.
In this week’s Pirtek Poll we ask who you think the biggest surprise packet was.
It was a bittersweet return to full-time Supercars competition for Tim Slade at The Mountain.
What was shaping up to be a breakout debut for the Blanchard Racing Team quickly soured after Slade crashed heavily in Race 1, forcing the team to withdraw from the event.
Nevertheless, it was an encouraging first competitive hitout for the team which was put together in 90 days.
Slade burst out of the blocks, initially qualifying fifth in his Ford Mustang before a blistering lap in the Top 10 Shootout saw him earn a front-row start.
Slade and the team walked away from its first weekend without any points, but captured the attention of almost everyone in the pit lane as possible race-winning contenders.
There are few circuits that are harder to make your full-time Supercars debut at than Mount Panorama, but that was little trouble for Brodie Kostecki.
The Paul Morris protege came out firing on Saturday, breaking into the Top 10 Shootout, and comfortably too, setting the sixth fastest time in qualifying.
Finishes of 11th and 12th put him 11th in the drivers’ championship, just behind experienced Kelly Grove Racing driver Andre Heimgartner and ahead of Team 18’s Scott Pye.
A maiden top 10 berth is a sure thing for the 23-year-old, but expect him to be challenging higher up the pecking order in 2021.
Will the 2021 season be the year that Mark Winterbottom makes a bid for another Repco Supercars Championship?
It’s been a stellar start for the 39-year-old, making headway in both races to record finishes of fourth and fifth in the season-opener after starting from the back end of the top 10.
That’s put the Supercars veteran an impressive third in the drivers’ championship on 231 points behind van Gisbergen (300 points) and Chaz Mostert (267 points).
Team 18 continues going from strength to strength, expanding to a two-car operation in 2020 and building upon it with the addition of Richard Hollway to its engineering group for 2021.
Winterbottom is yet to stand on a Supercars podium with Team 18, but it feels it’s only a matter of time until that happens.
It’s strange to see Walkinshaw Andretti United parked in the middle of the pit lane order given the pedigree of its drivers Chaz Mostert and Bryce Fullwood.
The latter continues to impress after a solid first season in the championship where he finished 18th, claiming a breakthrough podium at The Bend.
While Mostert leads the charge for the team lying second in the standings, Fullwood has already come out at the opening round of the 2021 season strongly.
Fifth in the opening race of the year came courtesy of a well executed strategy, which saw him running as high as second at one point.
Fullwood was sandwiched between Supercars rookies Brodie Kostecki and Will Brown in the second affair, finishing 13th.
With round one done, the Darwin driver lies an impressive seventh in the drivers’ championship.
There was never any doubt that someone would fall victim to The Mountain, it just so happened that the first to falter was unfortunately Erebus Motorsport rookie Will Brown.
The 22-year-old’s crash in Practice 1 set the tone for what would be a tough weekend in a wounded Holden ZB Commodore.
Finishes of 16th and 14th aren’t indicative of the young gun’s early speed, and like team-mate Brodie Kostecki, a top 10 finish certainly looks achievable.
Prior to his crash, Brown had been one of the quickest in the early phase of practice, which no doubt turned a few heads.
The weekend may not have been what Brown wanted, but there was a glimpse of what might be possible.
Zane Goddard was the quiet achiever in the Supercars season opener.
This year marks the first for Goddard as a full-time driver in the championship after last year’s SuperLite campaign with Matt Stone Racing.
Already the 21-year-old has recorded his second best career finish to date, claiming 12th in the first race of 2021, backing that up with 16th in the second affair.
Goddard only just pips team-mate Jake Kostecki for making this list, his team-mate also recording solid finishes of 13th and 17th.
So, who was the surprise packet at this year’s Repco Mount Panorama 500? Cast your vote below.