The 2021 Supercars season gets under way this weekend at the iconic Mount Panorama circuit. The weekend won't be like a Bathurst 1000, with all the drama that race always throws up, but it'll still be hard.
To start a season at that track is a big ask for the teams and drivers. Although the races today and tomorrow are 'only' 40 laps each, the 250km race distance is the same as on a regular race round.
There were significant driver, team and engineer changes during the off-season — chief among them Roger Penske pulling out, taking Kiwi three-time champion Scott McLaughlin back to the US with him.
DJR Team Penske have reverted to Dick Johnson Racing and also have a new driver line-up with Will Davison and Anton De Pasquale. While the back office remains much the same, the driver line-up will leave the team less dominant.
This will open the door for Red Bull Racing and their drivers Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup — in his last season — to probably nab another championship.
With McLaughlin hitting the IndyCar circuit, van Gisbergen is the favourite to win a second title to go with his 2016 trophy. The Kiwi made the most of his time away from Supercars, contesting two rallies and the New Zealand Grand Prix. Whincup has the pedigree to pull off an eighth championship.
Tickford Racing's Cameron Walters will be desperate to spoil the Triple Eight threat, having finished second to McLaughlin last year in the title race, collecting nine podiums.
Expectations of De Pasquale have risen this year after his move from Erebus to DJR. He is now a consistent top-10 runner, picking up a win and two other podiums last year. By moving to DJR, he'll get some of the best gear and engineering in pit lane and should shine. Davison has proven quick in the past and could be a contender if consistent.
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Walkinshaw Andretti Racing pilot Chaz Mostert was touted a few years ago as a future champion. He's not really fired on all cylinders over an entire season but did finish fifth in 2020 despite not winning a race.
Nick Percat at Brad Jones Racing can't be written off after picking up two wins and a podium to end last season seventh. Another trio who might just pull a magic race out of the bag are David Reynolds and Kiwi Andre Heimgartner from Kelly Grove Racing and James Courtney.