What we learned from the pre-season Supercars test

Flying Mustangs, spring surprises, Triple Eight troubles and more. Motorsport.com unpacks the main talking points from a fascinating pre-season Supercars test.

What we learned from the pre-season Supercars test

The twin-spring ban is a big deal

Heading into the test, it was difficult to get a read on the impact the twin-spring ban would actually have.

Phillip Island, however, made it abundantly clear that forcing teams back onto a linear spring is a big deal.

Whether or not it has a lasting impact on the pecking order is still difficult to predict, but there's no doubt it's given team's plenty of homework to do heading to Adelaide – particularly at the classy end of pitlane.

The key is re-calibrating expectations in terms of car handling. Those that were deeply committed to the multiple spring set-up – the obvious examples being Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske – could plug almost any hole in the car's behaviour.

As T8 team manager Mark Dutton said at the test, a linear spring set-up will never be as good as a well-sorted multi-spring set-up. Simple as that. In the garage next door, Scott McLaughlin admitted that drivers will have to compromise, and predicted more driver errors in qualifying and more rear tyre wear in races.

Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden

Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden

Photo by: Supercars

DJR Team Penske is happy

It may not have been a Penske Mustang on top of the times at the end of the day, but the crew from Stapylton seemed upbeat at the end of the day.

Fabian Coulthard was, after all, second quickest. And anyway, it wasn't about what showed up on the time sheets. A number of people in the paddock were keen to point out that McLaughlin did a number of lightning quick first sectors but never seemed to go on with the lap... suggesting the team was using a beacon over the back of the circuit to avoid showing its hand.

When asked about it by Motorsport.com, McLaughlin's cheeky grin and half-hearted denial said it all. It's not like he was the only one doing it anyway; another driver at another team admitted to doing the same thing for much of the day.

Anyway, the reigning champion did admit at the end of the day to being 'shocked' by the impact of the linear spring switch, but there was a sense of confidence that the team knows how to deal with it.

The team may be talking down the Mustang's chances of a win on debut in Adelaide, but based on Phillip Island you certainly wouldn't rule it out.

Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske

Scott McLaughlin, DJR Team Penske

Photo by: Edge Photographics

Triple Eight is not happy

There was a little less optimism next door in the Triple Eight garage.

Having been running as many as three springs at times in the recent past, Dutton admitted that coming from a very "non-linear" way of thinking caused its problems at Phillip Island.

While happy with the sheer workload the team got through during the test, the pace was less than convincing. Shane van Gisbergen was just 14th fastest, while Jamie Whincup was way back in 19th.

There were no beacon tricks or a depleted tyre bank to blame either. Dutton said there were "no excuses" for what was a good old fashioned lack of car speed.

It seems that T8 didn't quite find its mojo on the linear spring at Phillip Island, which could be interesting come Adelaide given there's no more testing between now and then.

Not that the PI hiccup is a guarantee Giz and J-Dub will struggle at the 500. For one, the Adelaide street circuit is a world away from the long, sweeping corners of Phillip Island. And, as Mark Winterbottom told Motorsport.com after the test, "I've never seen them struggle for long."

Still, it's fascinating to see them starting on the back foot.

Jamie Whincup , Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden

Jamie Whincup , Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden

Photo by: Edge Photographics

Tickford was quick – but for how long?

Based on the timing sheet alone, it was a great day for Tickford Racing.

The squad ended up with all four Mustangs in the Top 10, Cam Waters setting the pace, Chaz Mostert in third, Will Davison fifth and Lee Holdsworth 10th.

A positive start, sure, but team boss Tim Edwards and all four drivers admitted afterwards that the Tickford package is still far from perfect.

Also, it was one lap. On good rubber. Throughout its difficult 2018 campaign, sheer lap speed was never Tickford's primary issue. Making the tyre work over a stint proved more difficult. We won't get a proper read on that until Saturday evening in Adelaide.

Cameron Waters, Tickford Racing Ford

Cameron Waters, Tickford Racing Ford

Photo by: Edge Photographics

Todd Kelly is back!

It was a fairly unspectacular day for Kelly Racing at Phillip Island, as the former Nissan-backed team focussed on finding balance with the updated Altima aero package and introducing an engine upgrade.

Wanting to get a feel for those change first-hand, team owner Todd Kelly decided to have first proper steer of an Altima since retiring at the end of the 2017 season, the Bathurst 1000 winner cut a handful of laps in brother Rick's car midway through the day.

It may not be the last we've seen of him this year either. When Motorsport.com tackled Todd about an enduro comeback, he was very coy...

Rick Kelly, Kelly Racing Nissan

Rick Kelly, Kelly Racing Nissan

Photo by: Kelly Racing

It may just be Erebus' time

Is this the year that Erebus Motorsport becomes a week-in, week-out contender?

From a laptime perspective, the signs were good. Both David Reynolds and Anton De Pasquale were up the fun end of the timesheets at Phillip Island, the former fourth quickest and the latter seventh.

Not bad, considering they were only out there for half of the test. Shortly after the midway point the team promptly packed up their Commodores and pulled the truck up to the gate, done for the day.

The reason was a noise breach. The team was at a loss to explain why the cars had gone over the 95 decibel limit without a change to the exhaust, but once it happened they opted to pack up rather than try and fix it.

Curiously Tickford encountered the same problem, the team making a small modification to the exhausts of its four cars so they could keep running.

Despite missing some running, Erebus team boss Barry Ryan was satisfied with what his squad had achieved.

There are those in pitlane that are convinced that Erebus never properly committed to twin-spring development and therefore has the jump on everyone else when it comes to linear.

At the very least, the team's post-season test at Winton back in December came just after Supercars told teams to start preparing for the twin-spring ban.

Reynolds was quick in Adelaide last year, and could very, very easily be the man to beat in a little under a fortnight.

David Reynolds, Erebus Motorsport Holden

David Reynolds, Erebus Motorsport Holden

Photo by: Supercars

shares
comments
Supercars team takes on new co-owner

Previous article

Supercars team takes on new co-owner

Next article

Tick of approval for new Supercars transaxle

Tick of approval for new Supercars transaxle
Load comments

About this article

Series Supercars
Author Andrew van Leeuwen
Can DJR still be a Supercars powerhouse after Penske? Prime

Can DJR still be a Supercars powerhouse after Penske?

Roger Penske's whirlwind Australian Supercars sojourn is over. After six seasons, three drivers' titles, three teams' championships and a Bathurst 1000 crown, The Captain has sold his controlling stake in Dick Johnson Racing back to the squad and walked away from the category.

Supercars
Feb 26, 2021
Can Whincup be Triple Eight's ruthless leader? Prime

Can Whincup be Triple Eight's ruthless leader?

Supercars' most successful team of the past 15 years is set for a radical shakeup next year when Jamie Whincup retires from driving and takes over the reins at Triple Eight. But does he have what it takes to be the new Roland Dane?

Supercars
Feb 8, 2021
How a lifetime Supercars deal broke down in one year Prime

How a lifetime Supercars deal broke down in one year

David Reynolds inked what was effectively a lifetime deal with Erebus in 2019 – only to walk out a year later. What went wrong?

Supercars
Dec 18, 2020
Why Supercars now needs a new "human salt harvester" Prime

Why Supercars now needs a new "human salt harvester"

Scott McLaughlin has been a controversial figure in Supercars over the past few years but, as he heads off to a fresh challenge in IndyCar, the Australian tin-top series needs to find someone else to fill his drama-filled boots as the category enters a new era...

Supercars
Nov 3, 2020
Why 2020 isn't McLaughlin's greatest title Prime

Why 2020 isn't McLaughlin's greatest title

Scott McLaughlin was quick to describe his third Supercars title as his best yet. But even though it didn't match the dramatic backstory of his 2018 triumph, there's a good reason for him wanting to control the narrative this time around.

Supercars
Oct 2, 2020
Why a Bathurst finale is risky business for Supercars Prime

Why a Bathurst finale is risky business for Supercars

The Bathurst Grand Final may provide Supercars its greatest spectacle yet – but there's a risk it will force the series to face a hard truth.

Supercars
Sep 4, 2020
Why Scott McLaughlin must become an IndyCar driver Prime

Why Scott McLaughlin must become an IndyCar driver

Scott McLaughlin, two-time and current Supercars champion, should have been making his NTT IndyCar Series debut for Team Penske at the GP of Indianapolis, but the Covid-19 pandemic forced a rescheduling that has put the brakes on his career switch. But David Malsher-Lopez explains why the New Zealander deserves this opportunity as soon as possible.

IndyCar
Jul 4, 2020
Tickford's 10-year wait for James Courtney Prime

Tickford's 10-year wait for James Courtney

When the Supercars season resumes James Courtney will be a Tickford Racing driver – but it's not the first time the star driver has flirted with the famous Ford squad.

Supercars
May 19, 2020