The stage is set for Team 18 to start a new chapter of the Supercars Championship this weekend as the Gen3 era kicks off at Round 1 of the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship at the Thrifty Newcastle 500.
aThis event will mark the debut of the team’s first two cars built in-house by the Charlie Schwerkolt-owned squad, with Scott Pye to take the wheel of ‘T18-001’, the #20 Hino Team 18 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and Mark Winterbottom to race ‘T18-002’, the #18 DEWALT Racing Team 18 Camaro.
Pye is excited to start the new season at a street circuit, following on from a speedy season finale which saw him qualify on the front row for the first race at the Adelaide 500.
The South Australian also highlighted reliability to be a major factor across the weekend with the first competitive showing of the new Gen3 cars but is looking forward to the challenge following an extensive shakedown and testing program with the team.
“I’d love to start where we finished off last year, qualifying on the front row on a street circuit relatively similar. My expectations are high, I want to be on the front row or in the top five and challenging right at the pointy end at the word go,” said Pye.
“It’s important to hit the ground running. Reliability is going to be a big thing, I’m sure the drivers will have to look after their car.
“After the first race we’ll know where we all sit, but personally I’m feeling really confident. Testing has been good relative to the rest of the field, I think it’s pretty strong but I’m excited for the challenge and pumped to be heading straight back to a street circuit.
“I’m confident going back to Newcastle, I love that circuit. I’ve had some really good runs there in the past. I crashed there in Qualifying in 2019 which meant I started dead last but drove through to fourth under full green flag conditions.
“I go back there with some good memories which fill me with confidence, I’m comfortable in the car, we’ve done a lot of laps, and I head to Newcastle feeling really positive and excited.”
Winterbottom will kick off his 20th full-time season in the Supercars Championship this year and is looking forward to getting the most out of the new Gen3 cars for the first time in competition in Newcastle.
“We’re well and truly ready for Newcastle. I mean testing and racing is a different thing with pit stops, qualifying formats and all of that sort of stuff, but in terms of the car and the setup, I’m feeling comfortable and ready to hit the track,” said Winterbottom.
“I think we’re competitive, but time will tell. There’s a bit going on in the world of Supercars regarding who’s fast and who’s not, I feel like the car is giving me the right feedback and that’s what I go off, the car is responding so good to changes.
“Come Sunday night at Newcastle there will be two winners and if we could be one or both of them then we’re going alright, but time will tell.”
This weekend sees Supercars back to the streets of Newcastle for the first time since 2019, with the 2.6km concrete-lined circuit to provide an exciting challenge for the launch of Supercars’ new cars. The picturesque circuit runs through the eastern end of the Newcastle CBD taking in scenic views along Shortland Esplanade, Newcastle and Nobby’s beaches and Newcastle Harbour.
The event returns with the Super500 format, featuring a 20-minute qualifying session and a Top 10 Shootout to set the grid for each 95 lap, 250km race. Each race will require two pit stops with a minimum two tyres changed in each stop, and a 100-litre minimum fuel drop.
The Thrifty Newcastle 500 takes place on March 10-12, with cars rolling out for the first time on Friday for three 45-minute practice sessions. All the action can be viewed free-to-air on Channel 7 and live on Fox Sports and Kayo.