There was universal support in the paddock of the Adelaide 500 last weekend for the return of this outstanding event at what has become a truly iconic venue. There was drama galore on track, big crowds and a great atmosphere.
Sunday provided a real fairy-tale ending with Broc Feeney scoring his first Supercars Championship race win. This wasn't a flukey result; this was a really hard-won victory against one of the best in the business and proved what some of us already knew – that Broc is the Real Deal.
Meanwhile, in Super2 Declan Fraser emerged as a clear weekend winner making all the right moves from the front to seal his Championship winning year in the best possible way.
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What do both Declan and Broc have in common?
They are both graduates of the foremost racing training ground in this part of the world – the Norwell Racing School on the Gold Coast run by Paul Morris and his team.
There's no doubt in my mind that the coaching methods developed by Paul and co at Norwell over the last five years have made a huge difference to a number of drivers.
Whilst Broc raced in Super3 with Paul Morris as well as training with him, there are many, many other drivers (and not just the younger ones) who spend time on track at Norwell honing their driving skills and learning from the coaching team there.
It doesn't matter whether you're an up-and-coming driver hoping to one day go professional, or an older person looking to race for fun, there's clearly a big gain from spending time with the Norwell coaching crew.
What astonishes me is the fact that some folk still think it's worth spending time and money travelling from here to Europe to be coached when there's an increasingly good programme available here on our doorstep in Australia that is excellent value for money – and the evidence of its effectiveness is there in black and white with the results on track.
This year there were two Super2 Champions competing as Rookies in the Supercars Championship: Broc Feeney and Thomas Randle. Broc finished sixth overall and Thomas finished 23rd. I can't help feeling that if Thomas (whose talent is not in doubt) had spent as much time on the Norwell coaching programme as Broc has done then he may well have finished higher up the order.
A decent tennis player or a golfer wouldn't dream of failing to practice (with a coach) their respective games when they're not playing in tournaments and yet so many race drivers don't do any circuit work outside events. It's true that some do use karting as a way of keeping their eye in and that can no doubt be very useful. The Norwell coaching programme can complement this by helping keep a lid on any developing bad habits, for instance.
Jack Doohan told me at the weekend that he plans to spend as much time as possible at Norwell this summer working on his driving. Given his status as a favourite for the F2 title in 2023, and that he has the benefit of being able to make comparisons based on first-hand experience of the various driver coaching options around the world, it's very interesting that he rates the Norwell experience so highly.
The results speak for themselves – and the success of Broc and Declan this year is only the beginning. I reckon that in years to come you'll see increasing numbers of drivers not only from here, but also New Zealand and Asia making their way to the Gold Coast to hone their skills.
Broc's rookie year also shows that the Supercars Paddock really does need to embrace young talent and give them a chance. In the Supercars era only Greg Murphy has finished higher up the Championship table as a rookie than Broc – fourth in 1997 when the landscape was very different. Broc showed what can be achieved.
There are too many teams and sponsors that continue to employ drivers who simply don't deliver. Year after year these teams and drivers come out and tell the world how it's going to all come good this season – but it doesn't. But James Golding, for instance, has shown this year that a real talent can show well even in a smaller team when given a chance.
Of course, if rookie drivers don't start to deliver after a couple of years, then they should be moved on. Unfortunately, teams allow some of the drivers to stick around way past their sell-by dates, thereby blocking the way for new blood.
The lesson is: back young talent and take a risk – and reduce the size of that risk by ensuring the driver is a regular Norwell Racing School attendee.