Bamber among standout Supercars co-driver stints of 2018

As the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship turns its focus to the ITM Auckland SuperSprint, co-drivers withdraw from the spotlight for another year.

Some do so with silverware, many are already looking ahead to 2019 while some have ’18 other racing programs still to complete.

But not all co-driver performances were built equal across the Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast events.

Steven Richards, for instance, was largely excellent in partnering with Craig Lowndes to win the PIRTEK Enduro Cup, as both bounced back from a below-par 2017.

He was, though, fortunate a mistake at pit entry at Bathurst wasn’t more costly, and that Sunday’s Gold Coast rain intervened when he was under investigation for turning Warren Luff around.

The rest of the time, Richards was exactly what you’d want and expect from a bloke of his calibre and experience.

Tony D’Alberto probably epitomised the role of a co-driver best this year, as a no-fuss operator getting on with business alongside Fabian Coulthard.

If not for the #12 Shell Ford having to back off and save fuel on Saturday, he might have featured below, but instead the team game was played.

This list is by no means definitive on the ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’ co-driver stints; there are others that will have been recognised within teams, like D’Alberto’s effort as a sacrificial lamb.

What this is is the standout stints that caught our eye and/or shaped races.

Dumbrell brains them at Sandown

Paul Dumbrell’s seventh and potentially last run with Jamie Whincup and Triple Eight ended with a whimper, buried in the Gold Coast Turn 12 tyres.

It would be a shame if that’s the last we see of Dumbrell, and if he didn’t get another chance to conquer the curse he and Whincup seem to battle at Bathurst.

They did at least get another Sandown victory, on a weekend Dumbrell was the absolute class of the co-drivers and would’ve given plenty of full-timers a hurry up.

Dumbrell grabbed the lead at the start and twice checked out by the best part of 20 seconds, either side of a Safety Car period, before handing over to Whincup.

It set up a dominant performance, in which the pair lapped up to 11th.

Brown’s impressive arrival

Will Brown was so strong as a Dunlop Super2 Series rookie in 2017 that Erebus even considered putting its new enduro recruit alongside David Reynolds.

It ultimately paired him with Anton De Pasquale, who was also contesting the three long-distance races for the first time.

Brown is having a much-quieter sophomore Super2 season, but set the tone for a good enduro campaign at Sandown.

He topped a practice session on Friday, then kept much more experienced company in the opening stint of Sunday’s race, inside the top six.

It did include an awkward Turn 1 tangle with the winner of the co-driver ARMOR ALL Race for the Grid, Aaren Russell, but he ultimately handed the car over fifth, having started ninth.

An honourable mention along these lines also goes to Brown’s fellow Super2 driver Macauley Jones.

While Jones has more experience in a Supercar than Brown, his stint in the Saturday Gold Coast race to run sixth was impressive.

Perkins’ Sandown heavy lifting

Still at Sandown, Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing had a shocker on Saturday, after James Courtney and Scott Pye qualified third and fifth.

Misadventures through the Races for the Grid included a crash for Courtney that left a repaired #25 Commodore starting 26th and last.

Courtney started in a bid to gain track position against co-drivers, handing over to Jack Perkins at the first pitstop.

That left Perkins to complete the second half of his laps against the full-timers, but he did so inside the top 10 with aplomb.

The car ultimately lacked tyre life and Courtney faded to 16th, then had an engine failure at Bathurst before the pair made amends with a Gold Coast podium.

Bamber’s mid-Bathurst blast

We didn’t need the Supercars enduros to realise Earl Bamber is a gun, but his run alongside Shane van Gisbergen underlined his class.

In unfamiliar surrounds and van Gisbergen in the thick of a title fight, the two-time Le Mans winner barely put a foot wrong across the Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast weekends.

He was quick and raced assuredly, and his stint early in the second half of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 was a prime example of that.

A slow rotor change dropped the #97 Red Bull Holden from second to 16th as Bamber jumped in for a Safety Car restart, but by the time he handed back to his fellow Kiwi it was sixth.

Yes, the Triple Eight ZB is a quick package, even if van Gisbergen didn’t have enough to fight for victory late in the afternoon.

Bamber, though, gave it every chance from the deep end.

Moffat makes life ‘easy’ for Mostert

Having already drawn praise from Chaz Mostert at Bathurst for his run against the full-timers, James Moffat showed his value again on the Gold Coast.

Fresh out of full-time competition himself, Moffat moved from fifth to second in the opening stint, and was then let past by the fuel-wary D’Alberto on lap 36.

From there, he strolled away, leading by eight seconds before handing over to Mostert, the early Safety Car meaning co-drivers did two stints rather than just the first.

“I did the easy job,” Mostert said after ending a 12-month winless run for himself and Tickford. “[Moffat] wheeled it to the front.”

Moffat, whose Saturday performance came under the cloud of an investigation into an incident in the Porsche paddock, backed it up on Sunday.

His pass for the lead on Luke Youlden at Turn 4 on lap 13 was as well-executed as any we saw over the three events.

The Supercheap Ford was cruising away at the front again when the rain that ultimately ended the race arrived.

Bamber among standout Supercars co-driver stints of 2018

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