The 2019 Supercars season starts in Adelaide this weekend. It's been a news-packed winter of new cars, new line-ups and new rules - here are the main talking points
The twin-spring ban is a big deal
The entire Supercars field is new forced to run linear springs, thanks to a new-for-2019 rule banning multiple-spring units.
Heading into the official pre-season test day at Phillip Island earlier this month, it was difficult to get a read on the impact the change would actually have - but it soon became clear that it's a big deal.
Though whether it has a lasting impact on the pecking order is still difficult to predict, it has certainly given teams - especially the top ones - a lot of homework between the test and Adelaide.
The key is recalibrating expectations in terms of car handling. Those that were deeply committed to the multiple spring set-up - the obvious examples being Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske - could plug almost any hole in the car's behaviour.
As T8 team manager Mark Dutton said at the test, a linear spring set-up will never be as good as a well-sorted multi-spring set-up. Simple as that. In the garage next door, Scott McLaughlin admitted that drivers will have to compromise, and predicted more driver errors in qualifying and more rear tyre wear in races.
DJR Team Penske is happy
It may not have been a Penske Mustang on top of the test times, but the team seemed upbeat.
Fabian Coulthard was, after all, second quickest. And anyway, it wasn't about what showed up on the timesheets. A number of people in the paddock were keen to point out that McLaughlin did a number of lightning quick first sectors but never seemed to go on with the lap... suggesting the team was using a beacon over the back of the circuit to avoid showing its hand.
When asked about it by Autosport, McLaughlin's cheeky grin and half-hearted denial said it all. It's not like he was the only one doing it anyway; another driver at another team confessed to doing the same thing for much of the day.
The reigning champion did admit at the end of the day to being 'shocked' by the impact of the linear spring switch, but there was a sense of confidence that the team knows how to deal with it.
The team may be talking down the Mustang's chances of a win on debut in Adelaide, but based on Phillip Island you certainly wouldn't rule it out.
Triple Eight is not happy
There was a little less optimism next door in the Triple Eight garage.
Having been running as many as three springs at times in the recent past, Dutton admitted that coming from a very "non-linear" way of thinking caused its problems at Phillip Island.
While happy with the sheer workload the team got through during the test, the pace was less than convincing. Shane van Gisbergen was just 14th fastest, while Jamie Whincup was way back in 19th.
There were no beacon tricks or a depleted tyre bank to blame either. Dutton said there were "no excuses" for what was a good old fashioned lack of car speed.
It seems that T8 didn't quite find its mojo on the linear spring at Phillip Island, which could be interesting come Adelaide as there hasn't been any more testing. But the Adelaide street circuit is a world away from the long, sweeping corners of Phillip Island. And, as Mark Winterbottom told Autosport after the test, "I've never seen them struggle for long."
Tickford quick but unhappy
All four Tickford Ford drivers were all in the top 10 at the end of the test day.
A flurry of late laps on green rubber put Cam Waters on top of the overall times, while Chaz Mostert slotted into third.
But single-lap success hasn't left the Tickford quartet satisfied with the new Mustang.
Team boss Tim Edwards says his drivers were still "bitching and moaning" about the car's handling, as the squad deals with the switch to linear springs thanks to the twin-spring ban.
"The reality is that the cars weren't behaving the way we wanted them to behave, but we've also lost trap springs as well so that's changed the philosophy on the suspension as well," Edwards told Autosport.
It's a different philosophy not having the twin-springs, you've got to mechanically balance the car around that, so we've got to work our arse off to figure it out."
It may just be Erebus' time
Is this the year that Erebus Motorsport becomes a week-in, week-out contender?
From a lap time perspective, the signs were good. Both David Reynolds and Anton De Pasquale were up the fun end of the timesheets at Phillip Island, the former fourth quickest and the latter seventh.
Not bad, considering they were only out there for half of the test. Shortly after the midway point the team promptly packed up its Commodores and pulled the truck up to the gate, done for the day.
The reason was a noise breach. The team was at a loss to explain why the cars had gone over the 95 decibel limit without a change to the exhaust, but once it happened it opted to pack up rather than try and fix it.
Curiously Tickford encountered the same problem, the team making a small modification to the exhausts of its four cars so they could keep running.
Despite missing some running, Erebus team boss Barry Ryan was satisfied with what his squad had achieved.
There are those in pitlane that are convinced that Erebus never properly committed to twin-spring development and therefore has the jump on everyone else when it comes to linear.
At the very least, the team's post-season test at Winton back in December came just after Supercars told teams to start preparing for the twin-spring ban.
Reynolds was quick in Adelaide last year, and could very, very easily be the man to beat this weekend.
A NASCAR bound champion?
Last year's title winner McLaughlin has made clear NASCAR is "the obvious goal" for his career in a new book released ahead of the 2019 Supercars campaign.
Road to Redemption is a tell-all insight into McLaughlin's 2018 season, charting the fall-out of his disastrous weekend in Newcastle in 2017 through to his title-winning triumph at the same circuit 12 months later.
In it he makes clear his sights are set squarely on a future move to NASCAR.
Personal ties to America through fiancee Karly Paone are one factor but he also admits he doesn't think becoming a long-term Supercar legend would satisfy him.
"I have massive respect for what Jamie Whincup has achieved with his seven championships, but I'm not sure I could keep doing what he's doing, year after year," McLaughlin writes.
"If I was able to tick off a championship and a Bathurst win in the next half-dozen years or so I would consider doing something else. If the opportunity came up to try something Stateside I'd jump at it.
"And NASCAR is the obvious goal.
"NASCAR is a dream of mine and Roger Penske and the team know that."
As Autosport reported last month, Penske is well aware of McLaughlin's NASCAR plans and backs them.
The Kiwi had his first taste of NASCAR hardware on the Gold Coast last year, sampling an ex-Joey Logano Fusion in a series of demo runs.