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The first of four straight weekends of Supercars action got underway last weekend with the BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown event at Hidden Valley Raceway, it was our goal to be at this event alas the COVID-19 pandemic rulled that out for our team. Here is our report from all three races from our couch media centre.
DePasquale Triumphs In Chaotic Race 13
Anton DePasquale claimed his first Virgin Australia Supercars win in the opening race of the BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown at Hidden Valley. The Penrite driver threw caution to the win in running the race on two sets of the soft tyre option. The win was a just reward for the decision. James Courtney also took the soft tyre option to score a first podium for the Boost Mobile Racing Ford Mustang. Chris Pither gave the fledging Team Sydney operation their best result with a 5th place after he had also run both soft tyres during the race.
Jamie Whincup leapt from the line and held a slender advantage over pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin on the long run towards turn 1. Whincup eased across to head the Shell V-Power Mustang and to cover the inside line at the first turn.
RACE 13 HIGHLIGHTS
Mark Winterbottom also made and excellent start and swept around the outside of Fabian Coulthard to take third place and split the Shell V-Power drivers in the process. Whincup led McLaughlin, Winterbottom, Coulthard, Waters, DePasquale, Reynolds, Courtney, Percat and van Gisbergen through turn 5. Todd Hazelwood squeezed inside van Gisbergen at the exit of turn 5 as Nick Percat ran wide in the RJ Batteries Commodore. Percat’s car suddenly snapped right with van Gisbergen immediately behind and collected Hazelwood in his fellow BJR entry. The pair spun into the grass at the entry to turn 6. Hazelwood moved away with damage to the left rear of the Brut Commodore, while Percat eventually limped away from the scene with damage to the front of his car.
“That’s actually laughable,” Percat told Supercars.com after viewing the incident replay. “He’s just having a Shane day where he doesn’t bleed out of the throttle obviously.”
Winterbottom, DePasquale and Courtney had all started the race on the softer compound tyres and sat in 2nd, 4th and 6th respectively after lap 2 of the 38 lap race. Winterbottom closed on leader Whincup and claimed the lead with a relatively straight forward pass at turn 5, while dePasquale took 3rd from McLaughlin at turn 6.
While the lap 1 incident was cleared without the need for a Safety Car, the same could not be said for a second incident on lap 5. Jack LeBrocq and Rick Kelly clashed at the exit to turn 7 and speared across the grass on driver’s left. Kelly moved back on track at the approach to turn 9 and collected Jake Kostecki as the UNIT Racing Commodore across the corner on the racing line. Kostecki spun across the gravel trap and made significant contact with the tyre wall.
As rescue crews looked to extricate the damaged car, the pitlane became a traffic jam as teams scrambled to complete their compulsory pitstop. Mark Winterbottom was first to stop but slipped positions as his team waited for the string of cars to pass their pit bay. Jamie Whincup’s race was compromised when the team released the #88 RBHRT Commodore into the path of DePasquale. The Penrite had weaved around Coulthard’s Shell V-Power Mustang as the DJRTP driver looked to veer into his pit bay and was then squeezed into the armco guard rail by Whincup. The Red Bull driver ceded position to DePasquale immediately but was later handed a 15 second time penalty for the indiscretion.
“I had a shocker there,” RBHRT engineer Mark Dutton told Fox Sports. “I saw Coulthard pull up but didn’t see dePasquale behind him. I released Jamie and then turned around to service #97 and put him into the side of dePasquale. Yeh so it’s on me. I shouldn’t have stuffed up. I should’ve done better, not good enough.”
The race resumed on lap 10 and was quickly embroiled in another controversy when McLaughlin was judged to have moved alongside Courtney before the control line. The Shell V-Power driver also received a 15 second time penalty for the incident.
Anton DePasquale led the race at the restart from Whincup, Courtney, Winterbottom, McLaughlin, Waters, van Gisbergen, Coulthard, Holdsworth and Pither. Courtney slipped inside Whincup for 2nd place at turn 6 and quickly moved away on the soft tyres.
Shane van Gisbergen was handed a drive through penalty for the opening lap incident with Percat and completed the penalty at the end of lap 12. He returned at the tail of the field in 22nd place. Rick Kelly was handed a similar penalty on the following lap for the incident with Jake Kostecki. Pither and Pye made inroads into the top 10 during the mid-stages of the race and held 7th and 8th places when Macauley spun at the exit of turn 5 and hit the left front of his Cooldrive Commodore against the armco fencing. He tried to keep moving only to stop a matter of metres away with suspension damage.
The race resumed with 10 laps left to run with DePasquale in control from Courtney and Whincup. Pither was caught out at turn 1 and dropped down to 8th behind McLaughlin. The Team Sydney Commodore quickly regained lost ground on the softer tyre. Anton dePasquale went on to win the race, which was declared time certain some 4 laps shy of the scheduled distance. James Courtney finished 2nd with Scott Pye 3rd. Mark Winterbottom, Chris Pither, Fabian Coulthard, Chaz Mostert, Cameron Waters, Andre Heimgartner and Lee Holdsworth completed the top 10 after post race penalties were applied.
“It feels good,” DePasquale told Fox Sports.“We threw everything at it today which means we are going to have a struggle tomorrow, but that’s okay when you can talk about a win. It paid off, our car is always pretty good around here. Obviously it’s good to get a result, the team’s been begging for it and it’s been awesome.” My dream is racing around the country an dliving in hotels, but for the team there’s families at home. For them to be away for so long wins a podiums are a comfort because thats why they’re involved in the sport. To get that today is good and hopefully Dave will get a couple tomorrow.”
McLaughlin Back On Top In Race 14
Scott McLaughlin bounced back to take the win in the second race of the weekend at the BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown. The reigning Virgin Australia Supercar Champion had earlier scored pole position for both Sunday races and looked to repeat those results in races 14 and 15 of the 2020 Championship. After Saturday’s opening race, teams were left to juggle what remained in their tyre banks of the soft and hard compound tyres. Some, such as James Courtney and Anton DePasquale had already used up the best of their soft tyres and were expected to struggle, while the likes of McLaughlin and Whincup had stock of the faster tyre at their disposal. Nick Percat and Todd Hazelwood were back on track after the BJR team were granted a special dispensation to work beyond the track curfew to complete repairs to the respective cars.
RACE 14 HIGHLIGHTS
McLaughlin was set to start from pole, which was positioned on the dirtier side of the race track and Fabian Coulthard was quicker off the line from second on the grid. The #12 Shell V-Power driver soon moved into the middle line to head McLaughlin into turn 1. Coulthard headed McLaughlin, Whincup, DePasquale, Percat, van Gisbergen, Heimgartner, Reynolds, Winterbottom and Mostert through turn 6 in what was a more orderly start than the previous day’s affair.
Jamie Whincup led a train of cars into the pits on lap 6 for the compulsory pit stop, including Percat, Reynolds, Courtney and Waters. Coulthard stopped one lap later and left a much less congested pitlane with a healthy gap to Whincup. McLaughlin responded with two fastest sectors and a personal best lap in the race before he pitted on lap 8. McLaughlin exited the pits ahead of a charging Coulthard, who unfortunately ran too deep under brakes and ran off the track at turn 1 and lost a place to Whincup in the process.
David Reynolds ran long in his first tyre stint and held the lead with 11 laps left to run before finally making his compulsory stop. That handed the race lead back to McLaughlin from Whincup, Coulthard, Percat and van Gisbergen. Reynolds dropped to 6th and scrapped with Percat and van Gisbergen for 4th place, until a slight scrape with Percat saw the Penrite car drop back briefly. A better run onto the main straight allowed Reynolds to take 5th place.
Scott McLaughlin won from Winchup and Coulthard. Van Gisbergen, Reynolds, Percat, DePasquale, Mostert, Waters and Heimgartner completed the top 10.
“For me, today was a good bounce back,” McLaughlin told Shell V-Power media. “Last night I was mentally down, and I don’t take mistakes like that well, especially when I had a fast car. So it was nice to bounce back today.”
Whincup’s Undercut Seals Race 15 Win and the Triple Crown
Jamie Whincup was involved in another pitlane incident during the final race of the weekend but managed to escape penalty to claim race 15 and the BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown trophy. Whincup ended the weekend tied on points with Fabian Coulthard but took the honour courtesy of his win in the final race.
Whincup made a better launch at the start to lead briefly on the run towards the first turn, though it was McLaughlin who quickly re-asserted his position at the head of the field and led into turn 1 from Whincup, Mostert, Coulthard, van Gisbergen and Waters. Coulthard dropped a place to van Gisbergen at the exit of turn 5 as the field settled without incident. Alex Davison suffered a punctured right front tyre on the Local Legends sponsored Team Sydney Commodore at the commencement of lap 2 and was forced to run a lap with the tyre split on the rim.
RACE 15 HIGHLIGHTS
A gaggle of cars headed into the pits for a compulsory stop on lap 6, headed by Jamie Whincup, wth Mostert and then Coulthard close behind. Whincup’s stop was completed as Coulthard neared the Red Bull Holden Racing Team pit box and the #88 Commodore moved out. There were reports of contact and the matter was closely examined by the stewards with Whincup later cleared of any wrongdoing, much to the disappointment of Coulthard, who shared his views on social media.
“I think the witness mark on the front of my car, and the skid mark to stop to avoid him, is pretty clear,” Coulthard said.“Blind Freddy could have seen that I was impeded.”
Coulthard was also fortunate to avoid contact when he left the pitlane and somehow managed to thread the needle between Mostert and Percat in his pit release. DePasquale and Waters returned to the track in the same group and became involved in a clash for position at turn 1. After an initial impact from Waters to the rear of DePasquale, the pair collided door to door mid corner with wing mirrors damaged in.a spray of glass and plastic.
McLaughlin and van Gisbergen were amongst a group of cars to pit a lap later. McLaughlin moved to the left of the racetrack at the exit of the pits as Whincup charged down with a full head of steam. The undercut move from RBHRT allowed Whincup to sweep past McLaughlin on the main straight and take the lead before the braking area at turn 1.
Whincup and McLaughlin held a 100 metre break to the next group of cars, led by van Gisbergen from Mostert and Coulthard. Mark Winterbottom had stayed on track as the those ahead stopped and inherited the lead until his stop with 11 laps left to run. He returned in 8th place as Whincup returned to the front with McLaughlin close to the Commodore’s rear bumper. The Shell V-Power Mustang’s tyres began to suffer in the wake of the RBHRT Commodore and slowly dropped off the tail.
Jamie Whincup took the win from Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen. Chaz Mostert, Fabian Coulthard, Nick Percat, Mark Winterbottom, Jack LeBrocq, David Reynolds and Rick Kelly completed the Top 10.
“We had a great battle on track today. We just kept chipping away at the car all weekend and made it fastest for race three,” Whincup said to RBHRT media. “I thought after yesterday’s penalty we were done and dusted for the Triple Crown, but it was fantastic to have a great day and get a win for the team. Dave Cauchi (Race Engineer, Car #88) and the team behind the scenes did a fantastic job. We were having a good battle with Car #17 and we knew the race would come down to the pit stops. We didn’t want to hand them the win, and we wanted to attack as hard as we could and that’s exactly what we did. We raced hard, got the win, and we’ll celebrate tonight with a few hard-earned drinks before we prepare for another tough weekend up here in Darwin.”
Fabian Coulthard was left empty handed even though he had finished the round on equal points with Whincup. The result made all the more difficult to swallow after the pitlane incident with Whincup.“I have mixed emotions today. Obviously I’m happy with the car’s performance with qualifying on the front row, then getting a podium in the first race today, but a little bit bittersweet in the second race.”
“I felt we were in a good position running fifth and we were ahead of Chaz which would have given us enough points to win the round outright, But there was an unsafe pit release from the Triple 8 guys, and I’m not sure how much contact you have to endure before it becomes a penalty,” Coulthard told Shell V-Power media.“At the end of the day, I didn’t want to damage my car and I wanted to get to the finish, but it could have been very unsafe for the pit crew if there were any more contact than there was. It would have bee nice to hold that trophy up for the Shell V-Power Racing boys as they deserve it, but it’s not over, and we’ve asked for it to be looked into further.”
The Supercars circus will remain in Darwin this week and will be back at the Hidden Valley circuit once again this coming weekend for the CoreStaff Darwin SuperSprint, where only soft tyres will be in play.
We are pleased to announce that the Velocity magazine team will be at both the forthcoming Townsville Rounds! More to come..
Photos: supercars media
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