The big prize in Darwin is still up for grabs after a processional second sprint at Hidden Valley.
Anton de Pasquale has the points advantage for the Triple Crown after a win on Saturday afternoon, despite comeback runs by Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup – who were both penalised in Race 1 – that took them to the top spots on the podium in Race 2.
Pasquale managed seventh place despite using his big soft-Dunlop advantage in the first race, and leads Fabian Coulthard and James Courtney in the fight for the crown.
An own goal cost Coulthard a win in Race 2 after a family duel between the Shell Mustangs from DJR Team Penske in the Top End.
McLaughlin took the advantage in qualifying, then Coulthard led from the start, but when Coulthard out-braked himself into Turn 1 after the tyre stops it was McLaughlin who eased home to the chequered flag ahead of Whincup.
It was a familiar pattern for the pace-setting Mustangs, who used a slightly different tyre strategy – a right-hand-side tyre change, against rears – to get an edge over the Red Bull HRT Commodores.
McLaughlin says he was ambushed on the grid, but happy to have bounced-back from the drama on Saturday.
“It was like the best start I’ve done in a long time and he smashed me,” McLaughlin says.
“I got a bit lucky there. I saw Fabs run wide.”
Coulthard was looking to punch past after the stops, but sacrificed a hot-tyre advantage into Turn 1.
“I probably got a little excited and pinched the left front. You don’t have much margin for error,” he admits.
“It was trying to get it done, but… It was good, nice to lead into Turn 1, but not quite the result we were after.”
It was the same for Whincup, who did his usual slick, professional job to come home as runner-up.
“We were a little bit gifted by Fabs. He got a little distracted by 17 down at Turn 1,” he says.
But he has the eye on the biggest prize, the Supercars championship, where his margin to McLaughlin has eased out to 109 points, with Chaz Mostert still in third despite failing to star so far in Darwin.
“I need to take points away from #17, but I gave him a few there,” Whincup says.
After the chaos on Saturday, Race 2 at Hidden Valley is surprisingly bland.
The big mover is David Reynolds, who runs super-long on his soft-compound Dunlops and comes home a solid fifth after pitting with 11 laps to the flag and then pulling a pass on Nick Percat.
“My car is just improving over the weekend. We’re finding out way back now. Looking forward to the next race,” Reynolds says.
Race 3 in Darwin is shaping as a survival contest for most of the runners, who are deeply into their Dunlop tyre banks, but McLaughlin still holds the advantage after qualifying fastest ahead of Whincup, van Gisbergen and Mostert, with Coulthard only sixth.
RACE 14 – 38 laps
|4||Shane van Gisbergen|
|7||Anton de Pasquale|