The first race of the 2021 Supercars season has begun.
There is no sign yet of an official calendar for next year’s championship, but already the drivers are racing for a place on the grid.
The biggest piece of the Tetris puzzle is still missing, as Scott McLaughlin is yet to officially confirm his IndyCar drive with Team Penske, but that has not stopped the first round of signings and renewals.
Bryce Fullwood is getting a second season at Walkinshaw Andretti United, former champion Mark Winterbottom has earned two more years with Team 18, and veteran James Courtney will continue in the Boost Mustang at Tickford Racing at least until the end of 2021.
“Don’t forget me. I’ve got nine years to go,” laughed David Reynolds, who is on a 10-year deal with Betty Klimenko at Erebus Racing but is also the subject of a rumoured team change after a deeply disappointing season.
His team-mate Anton De Pasquale knows he will be out of Erebus but is waiting – like Will Davison – to see what happens at DJR Team Penske once the current season has wrapped.
Other drivers who are under a question mark include Fabian Coulthard at the Shell V-Power outfit and everyone but Nick Percat at Brad Jones Racing.
Winterbottom’s fresh deal will take his time at Charlie Schwerkolt’s team to four years, and he is showing solid pace as well as a sponsor-friendly attitude to his racing.
“There was never a doubt that I was going to stay. It’s a really close knit team, and the bonds we have created during these COVID times, being on the road together, has brought everyone really close. You can sense that we are on the edge of creating something very special,” said Winterbottom.
“Charlie and I definitely share the same vision for the direction of where we need to go. He has developed a really strong culture in the team and he is always open to new ideas from myself and all of our staff.”
For Fullwood, who is about to complete his rookie season with Walkinshaw Andretti United, the renewal is a big tick from the team.
He is already the most successful rookie in the Supercars field, as well as heading all the year-two runners in the Supercars standings, alongside Chaz Mostert in the Commodore camp.
“I love it here, it really is a family, and it’s fantastic to be able to continue the journey we started,” said Fullwood.
“I’ve been really happy with how this year has gone so far, and I’m excited to continue to build during the off-season. Having that certainty about my future will allow me to prepare in the best possible way for 2021, so it’s great to get the news out there, focus on this weekend, and then get to work on next year immediately.”
There was little doubt that Courtney would continue his time as a Boost Mobile driver, only the car he would race next year.
He said the Tickford deal was quick and simple on both sides, as he feels “10 years younger” after his switch from WAU.
“The relationship gets better and better. Why would I want to stop?
“I don’t think age has as big an effect in our game as it does in some other sports. You can stay sharp.
“Lowndes was 44 in his final full-time year and I’ll be 41 next year, so I’ve still got a way to go. Wasn’t Russell Ingall still racing at 77?”, he laughed.