SHELL V-Power Racing Ford Falcon drivers Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin shared the spoils in the Darwin round of the Supercars Championship at the weekend, although there was a promising lift in the pace of the rival Holden factory team title contenders Jamie Whincup, Shane van Gisbergen and Craig Lowndes.
After the two tough races in the Territory heat, Coulthard continues to lead the championship, with his team-mate McLaughlin now within 10 points of his fellow New Zealander.
Though still winless this year, Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s Whincup lags by a mere 16 points, edging away from van Gisbergen, who is now 178 points off the lead after a frustrating non finish on Saturday at Hidden Valley.
Coulthard and McLaughlin claimed their third one-two of the season in Saturday’s steamy 42-lapper which brought some carnage and misfortune to others. Showing hearty signs of good mid-season pace, Brad Jones Racing’s Nick Percat grabbed third ahead of Whincup, and Prodrive pair Chaz Mostert and Cameron Waters.
The DJR-Team Penske double act worked the strategy well but also had pacy Falcons to enhance their fight.
After a self-described “brain fart” when he fired off in the first corner, McLaughlin fought back well to finish right behind his team-mate. He and Percat moved forward after a jammed accelerator put the pole sitter Rick Kelly’s Nissan into a barrier, and a camber-related puncture impeded van Gisbergen before he tangled with Garth Tander and failed to score.
Still kicking himself for stuffing up a day earlier, McLaughlin set himself up for a strong run in Sunday’s longer 70-lap race, taking pole from Whincup, surprise packet James Moffat in a GRM Holden and Coulthard.
Whincup made a perfect start and was the early pacesetter from McLaughlin, Coulthard and van Gisbergen. Then different compulsory pit stop moves and the usual tyre degradation mixed things up. Some drivers also suffered power losses from the heat soak of cars ahead.
McLaughlin successfully undercut Whincup in the pits and then managed his buffer easily to take a comfortable two-second win over the six-times champion in a contest free of safety cars.
Reigning champ van Gisbergen, was 24 secs off the win in third but pleased with a podium after his rough Saturday.
Twenty four hours after smashing his rivals (and team-mate), Couthard couldn’t find the winning formula on Sunday, struggling a little in his drive to fourth but fighting determinedly as the laps ran down to keep the persistent Tim Slade (BJR Freightliner Holden), Lowndes, David Reynolds (Erebus Holden, a quick Scott Pye who made up eight places in his Mobil HSV Holden, and Waters
“The guys have given me and Fabian amazing cars,” McLaughlin said later. “We had really good pace and were able to do the job on strategy.”
Whincup, looking as cool as a cucumber despite the searing heat, reported that second wasn’t too bad. “The car was good. We got a good start but didn’t quite have the tyre life of car #17 today,” he explained. “But we made some improvements on the car this weekend that we’ll take away and be happy with.”
The win takes McLaughlin’s tally to three this season, equal with Coulthard but one fewer than van Gisbergen. Or Ford seven, Holden four, and Nissan yet to open its account.
The only other championship race winner (and lone Aussie success) so far is Mostert at Phillip Island.
The championship now moves to another hot spot, Townsville on July 7-9.
Mawson bounces back at Hungaroring Euro F3
Australian Joey Mawson has taken away points-scoring fourth, a seventh and an eighth place finishes from his weekend in tight and competitive European Formula 3 Championship at the Hungaroring.
It was a solid bounce back after a horror previous round in Pau.
In Hungary, Mawson was second to Prema’s Maximilian Gunther in the wet qualifying for the first of the weekend’s races.
But Mawson started fifth after copping a carryover penalty of three grid spots after hitting the car ahead at the previous round at Pau.
Mawson held his position off the line, managed a clean pass on Prema’s Callum Ilott to claim fourth but couldn’t progress further in a race won by pole man Gunther.
It was his best result of the weekend.
Mawson qualified eighth on the grid for race two, one second covering all but one car in the field. He improved one place when one rival stalled, and then spent the rest of the race in seventh.
Mawson started eighth again for the final race, but on a track that doesn’t encourage overtaking there were no changes of position in the top 10 after the first corner. Mawson took eighth place in the middle of a train of cars.