Supercars mid-season report card: Team 18

Mark Winterbottom leads Scott Pye at Sandown. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

With the Repco Supercars Championship on a coronavirus-induced halt at the season’s midway mark, takes a look at the 2021 performance of Team 18 to date.

Supercars mid-season report card: Team 18

Teams’ championship: 5th

Drivers’ championship: Mark Winterbottom 7th, Scott Pye 13th

Qualifying head-to-head: Winterbottom 13, Pye 6

Race head-to-head: Winterbottom 13, Pye 6

Solid if unspectacular. That’s been the story of Team 18 in 2021.

An expansion to two cars and the arrival of Scott Pye in 2020 brought marked gains for the team, ending the season sixth in the teams’ championship.

By all accounts, it was an impressive campaign, beating the established Walkinshaw Andretti United, Brad Jones Racing, and then-known Kelly Racing in a tight fight.

Despite being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the crew in part restructured, Pye brought Team 18 its maiden podium in 2020.

Pye led the Mount Waverley-based outfit’s efforts with three podium finishes, ending the year in ninth just ahead of team-mate Mark Winterbottom in 10th.

After a breakout year, there was an air of expectation that the team should and would make strides forward in 2021.

Winterbottom has largely led the charge this year out-qualifying his team-mate 13 to six, that conversion rate holding true in the races too.

The 2013 Bathurst 1000 winner is holding down seventh in the drivers’ championship. Pye, meanwhile, occupies 13th.

Winterbottom has 10 top 10 finishes while Pye has nine to his name.

In all, 204 points split the pair, four finishes outside the top 20 the kicker in Pye’s campaign compared to Winterbottom’s two.

Winterbottom has arguably been the best of those in and around the top 10 not to score a podium this season.

The Darwin Triple Crown looked as though it might be the weekend where Team 18 and its drivers would break through.

Winterbottom qualified second for Race 12 while Pye was just behind him in fourth. However, it would all come undone for Frosty who suffered technical gremlins and lost power off the line.

That promoted Pye to the top three, though he soon found himself in trouble as he spun Anton De Pasquale around at Turn 1. Pye took to the grass and Winterbottom hit the spinning Dick Johnson Racing driver.

By and large, Darwin has been the only real standout showing, for the right and wrong reasons.

Winterbottom keeps threatening to get a podium, evidence of that his three straight top five finishes to start the season off.

Team 18 are perennially on the cusp of cracking the top three. Not if, but when is a phrase often associated with the team. It rings true though, evidenced by Winterbottom’s strong showings.

The team has yet to have either of its drivers on the podium at the midway mark, but one would hope in the remaining races that’s something that will change.

Team mid-season grade: 6.5/10

Driver mid-season grades: Winterbottom 7.5/10, Pye 6/10

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