Crazy Supercars track hosts title showdown

Full-on, crazy and “Gold Coast on steroids” – that’s how star Supercars drivers have described the brand-new Newcastle street circuit for the final championship round.

The inaugural Newcastle 500 shapes as an epic battle between Jamie Whincup and Scott McLaughlin, with the Australian holding a 30-point advantage in the title race ahead of Saturday’s first 250km race.

Both Whincup’s Commodore and the Falcon of New Zealand’s McLaughlin emerged from Friday’s practice sessions with bumps and bruises.

“It’s a lot bumpier than expected – a lot of grip,” Whincup said.

“It’s just a short little crazy street circuit – Gold Coast on steroids in a way!”

Qualifying is expected to be crucial on the narrow, tight-turning track.

McLaughlin, describing Newcastle as full-on after his scorching fastest practice lap, has had 14 pole positions for the season, far outstripping Whincup’s two.

McLaughlin and DJR Team Penske teammate Fabian Coulthard have 11 race wins between them this season, while Whincup has three with fellow Red Bull Racing driver Shane van Gisbergen snaring two.

“I think it’s going to be a bit of a race of survival,” Coulthard said.

“It’s going to be very difficult to pass so qualifying is going to be important.”

Van Gisbergen is one of five drivers, with Coulthard and Chaz Mostert, who could mathematically still steal the title from the top two.

He said the track was crazy, given both races were 250km contests.

“It’s going to be hard work,” van Gisbergen said.

“Zero passing spots which is average – it’s going to be all about qualifying but really cool to drive.”

Qualifying for Saturday’s 95-lap race starts at 11:00am.

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