There's no doubt about it, the 2018 Supercars championship has been a great watch so far this year. Heading into what will probably be the three most decisive races of the year, the main game drivers are having to hand over the keys to their race cars to someone else.
The Pirtek Enduro Cup is a mini series within the main series, and this is where a championship can be made or lost. The run up to this weekend has seen a couple of Kiwis, Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen, literally banging doors to see who will a slight advantage heading into this weekend's Sandown 500.
McLaughlin has had the wood over the chasing pack for most of the season so far, but it's his racing mate van Gisbergen who finally got his nose in front last time out at The Bend in South Australia. The Red Bull Holden Racing pilot has managed to eke out a slim 19-point gap over the Shell V Power driver with Jamie Whincup loitering with intent a further 343 points back.
If anyone out there is thinking of righting Whincup off as a serious championship contender, they might just need their respective heads read. You don't become a seven-time Supercars champion by wallowing around with your head bowed. Lets just see where he's sitting in the title race after the Bathurst 1000.
Back to the randomness about to enter the championship in the guise of the co-drivers. There is one in particular who might just make the biggest difference as to who will eventually be the 2018 champion. Two-time Le Mans 24 Hour winner and World Endurance Championship champion, New Zealander Earl Bamber will hold the key to van Gisbergen's second title aspirations.
Last year there was a similar situation where another Kiwi with a vast amount of international experience was thrown into the mix. Richie Stanaway had had a little bit of Supercars experience and certainly put the cat among the pigeons when he and Cam Walters walked away with the winner's cheque Sunday afternoon.
Bamber has a better international pedigree than Stanaway, but also has a slight disadvantage of not having spent as much time in a Supercar as Stanaway did in the run up to the Sandown 500. That certainly does not have appeared to phase the Porsche works driver as he was second fastest in the final co-driver practice on Friday.
A Supercar may be quite different to a Porsche GT car, which is not proving too much of an issue to Bamber despite one having the engine in the boot and the other having its engine up front.
"A lot of people think they are a bit of a tank to race but they're not," said Bamber. "They are [Supercar] actually a purpose-built race car, whereas the Porsche still has a road car chassis from a production car.
"The Supercar is quite well refined really. The geometry is good, everything works really well inside the car. Everyone thinks they are a big old taxi, but in fact they are a very good race car to be honest.
"It's a bit of a shame they are limited on tyres and they are very, very quick."
On paper the pairing of van Gisbergen and Bamber is a mouth watering option. Both are quick in no matter what they are in and are aggressive drivers wanting to get the most out of the car.
"Yeah it's going to be mega. We used to race karts, Formula Ford and TRS together as well as a few GT races against each other.
"Now it's really cool to be in the same car with him. He's been amazing teaching me all the ropes and tips about a Supercar. Without him the learning curve would have been so much harder. I'm so super pumped for the first race," he said.
Bamber and van Gisbergen are of a similar build and driving style so setting up the car for the both of them to get the most out of it won't be too hard. There are a few small differences, but at least they give the same feedback to the engineers, which matters a lot when tuning the car.
A productive partnership you could say. These two won't have it all their own way come race day, but at least it will be entertaining.