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PRESS RELEASE/Shell V-Power – Photo: John Morris
The Sandown 500’s unique qualifying format brought some surprises today, coupled with inclement weather, that challenged teams and allowed Shell V-Power Racing to vault up the grid.
Fabian Coulthard & Tony D’Alberto – No. 12 Shell V-Power Racing Ford
Practice 4 – 20th (Fastest Lap: 1m16.7296s – Coulthard (wet)
Qualifying – 12th (Fastest Lap: 1m08.4516s – Coulthard)
Race for the Grid 1 – 4th (Fastest Lap: 1m11.0650s – D’Alberto)
Race for the Grid 2 – 4th (Fastest Lap: 1m08.7860 – Coulthard)
Scott McLaughlin & Alex Prémat – No. 17 Shell V-Power Racing Ford
Practice 4 – 14th (Fastest Lap: 1m16.0921s – McLaughlin (wet)
Qualifying – 14th (Fastest Lap: 1m08.4731s – McLaughlin)
Race for the Grid 1 – 3rd (Fastest Lap: 1m10.8318s – Premat)
Race for the Grid 2 – 3rd (Fastest Lap: 1m09.6860s – McLaughlin)
RECAP: The opening Race for the Grid saw changeable weather conditions and difficult strategy decisions for teams. After starting from 12th (Tony D’Alberto) and 14th (Alex Premat), a caution period came early in the race, lasting six laps when car No.18 hit the wall on the main straight. Alex had climbed to p10 and Tony p11 by that point. After the restart on lap 10, a brief burst of rain and hail caused several teams to pit for wet tyres. Shell V-Power Racing Team engineers made the call to keep Alex and Tony out on dry tyres. It was an inspired call, which vaulted the two Shell Fords into third and fourth on the road. That meant Scott McLaughlin would start Race for the Grid 2 from third, and Fabian Coulthard from fourth.
The second Race for the Grid 2 (RFTG2) was a relatively uneventful race for Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin. After RFTG1, where Alex Premat and Tony D’Alberto made great strides forward, RFTG2 saw Scott and Fabian starting side-by-side on the second row of the grid. They both got a strong start, and jumped into second and third positions behind David Reynolds for the first few laps. A caution period on lap four was triggered by a big crash for James Courtney at Sandown’s infamous turn six. After four laps of clean-up and recovery, the race re-started on lap eight. A fast moving Jamie Whincup took advantage of the straight line speed of his ZB Commodore to pass cars and latch onto the rear bumper of Fabian. He passed Fabian into the high-speed turn six, and then passed Scott at turn one a lap later. That relegated Scott and Fabian back to their starting positions of third and fourth, which is where they will start tomorrow’s 500km race.
COULTHARD QUOTE: “We knew coming here that those Holdens would be fast, but we need to maximise our package and do the best job we can. TD did a really solid job, he really got thrown in the deep end with the rain and hail mid-race. He kept it on the island, and a great call by the guys. It was a tough call, but the right call. He put me into that position to start my race. I got a good start, and we gapped the field behind us which was a good sign. Now we need to put it together and grab that result tomorrow.”
D’ALBERTO QUOTE: “The call to stay out when it started hailing was really ballsy from the team, but it paid off. It could have gone either way, but they made the right decision. It was an educated one, and got us up the grid. From then it was really about keeping the car on the road and finishing in that good position for tomorrow.”
MCLAUGHLIN QUOTE: “I think we were on the right end of that call there, making the right call at the right time. It was nice to get a good start in that final race, and that everything went OK. We’ve been trying to find pace with bits and pieces all weekend, and while we still have a straight line speed deficit, we’ll work really hard to get a good result tomorrow. Alex was awesome, and I’m looking forward to the race.”
PRÉMAT QUOTE: “It was a nice and smooth race, in those conditions it is always hard, especially here at Sandown with the kerbs and different track surfaces. I got a good start, and gained three positions and after that we decided to stay out on track when the rain came, which was the right call from the team. In the car we don’t know if it is the right call, and it was pretty difficult from turn one through to turn five across those first few laps. After that, we got used to it and then had a good fight with the number nine. After qualifying, taking p3 is a good thing for tomorrow and we will try our best.”
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