The 2020 season has so much to offer, and the Superloop Adelaide 500 is the best place to start.
The Holden announcement has soaked up much of the attention ahead of the season-opener, but when cars roll out for Practice 1, all bets are off.
Scott McLaughlin’s domination of the sport, which hit new heights in 2019, could scale back this season following a number of key technical changes.
Watch the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship on KAYO. Every race live & ad-break free during racing with game-changing features and the FOX SPORTS race commentary team. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
The Shell V-Power Racing star will head into 2020 again as the title favourite, and can become the first new champion to win three on the trot.
However, this is motorsport – and Supercars, at that – and there are no certainties.
Here are foxsports.com.au’s five bold predictions ahead of the 2020 season.
The demise of Holden has been an obvious distraction, but the Red Bull Holden Racing Team finished off 2019 like they know best – winning races.
Jamie Whincup’s future has been a ticket item of discussion for some time, and the seven-time champion will be keen to make it eight in 2020.
However, Shane van Gisbergen has been the top dog between the pair – away from Whincup’s 2017 title, van Gisbergen has been the higher-placed Red Bull Holden driver in their other three seasons together.
A hungry Whincup can only be a good thing for van Gisbergen, who won the 2016 title in his maiden campaign with the team. So good has been Whincup, that he has never gone three seasons without winning a title since his reign began proper in 2008.
Still, beating your teammate is one thing – but knocking off Scott McLaughlin will be another. The two Kiwis have been the benchmark performers in the sport alongside Whincup for the last few years. Perhaps the aero, engine and shock absorber changes can work into van Gisbergen’s favour. Maybe McLaughlin can respond in kind.
Van Gisbergen has two very obvious reasons to go top in 2020, beating his teammate and his closest rival. No driver is better to watch when the chips are down.
WE HAVE A (NEW) WINNER
Of the 24 drivers on the grid, there are 14 drivers who have won championship races: Lee Holdsworth, Cameron Waters, Rick Kelly, Fabian Coulthard, Scott McLaughlin, Will Davison, Chaz Mostert, Nick Percat, David Reynolds, Mark Winterbottom, Scott Pye, James Courtney, Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen.
For your general math wiz, that leaves 10 who haven’t. With key changes to cars, and with big driver and team moves, there are plenty of unknowns.
Pye’s Albert Park breakthrough in 2018 was the last time we saw a new winner. However, don’t expect the wait to continue.
Straight to mind come Anton De Pasquale, Andre Heimgartner and Jack LeBrocq, the latter duo filling out Mustang seats. Should either of these three have the cars and conditions to suit, it’s on.
Todd Hazelwood has earned a drive at Brad Jones Racing, and going off his 2017 Super2 title win, he knows what it takes to make it count when given the chance.
Of course, don’t rule out anyone in this sport. Bryce Fullwood was last on the list at the pre-season test, but destroyed the Super2 field last year. If Walkinshaw Andretti United can get it right, who knows? The Darwin-born ace could make a very big splash.
OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS
Mark Winterbottom hasn’t won a race in four years. Rick Kelly, two. James Courtney, four. Will Davison, four. Lee Holdsworth, six. Considering Scott McLaughlin’s dominance, teammate Fabian Coulthard could also fall into this list.
Former series champions Winterbottom and Kelly have extra motivation to lift in 2020. Scott Pye arrives at Team 18 with a big-name backer and renewed confidence, and a teammate for ‘Frosty’ can only push the former Ford hero into shape.
Kelly, meanwhile, will spearhead a Ford operation for the first time, but was outshone by Andre Heimgartner at times in 2019. Don’t expect either driver to stay down for long.
Courtney’s Team Sydney foray has potential, Holdsworth has a full Tickford season under his belt, and Davison showed pace at the pre-season test. Enter, 2020.
THE BATHURST FAIRYTALE
The emotions will be high once Bathurst rolls around, considering the Holden news which moved the earth this week.
So, as Mount Panorama usually does, an emotional win would be the best medicine.
Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes very nearly created the fairytale at Bathurst last year if not for a quick splash-and-dash at the end of the race. Should they do the business in October, the place would go off.
A Commodore victory to any driver would be a spectacle to behold. Crowds will flock to the mountain to say their farewells, but the race will live on forever – and it does enjoy a fabled moment. It has done for decades.
Could its biggest story be yet to come?
BIG SEAT CHANGES?
The Holden news will again shake the establishment. What cars will we see take the track in 2021?
From there, expect driver changes. Critically, chatter has been centred on Scott McLaughlin’s desire to race overseas, while Jamie Whincup’s future will always remain a talking point.
Anton De Pasquale has been linked to both DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight, racing with the latter at the Bathurst 12 Hour earlier this month.
DJRTP will be reluctant to head into 2021 with an all-new driver line-up, but can Fabian Coulthard still do enough to earn a contract extension?
Can another young gun like Todd Hazelwood have a big enough year for Brad Jones Racing to really make waves?