Forget about Scott McLaughlin.
Even though he racks up his half-century in Darwin, winning his 50th Supercars race with a smart start and an even smarter stop for brand-new Dunlop slicks, the action and excitement in Race 17 of the Supercars championship is all behind – way behind – the Shell V-Power Mustang.
The action on Sunday morning at Darwin2 is provided by Shane van Gisbergen and Fabian Coulthard and Chaz Mostert and Nick Percat, and especially Scott Pye.
Coulthard is the Lap 1 star as he fires from sixth to third, SvG is born again after an overnight engine change that fires his drive, Mostert and Percat battle hard in the Top 10 pack and eventually tangle, while Pye runs long, long, long in a strategic move that pays off at the end when he closes almost – but not quite – to within passing range of van Gisbergen.
There are also surprises from Jamie Whincup, who is never a factor and loses more points to McLaughlin, and Mark Winterbottom, who cannot capitalise on his success in qualifying.
“That one was good,” McLaughlin says, stating the obvious, as he picks up his newest trophy.
“My car is great today,” says van Gisbergen, also reflecting on his attitude after a grumpy run with an underwhelming engine on Saturday.
“Scotty was a little bit faster. Hopefully we can tickle it up.”
Pye is as happy as he has been in a Supercar, racking up a podium for the second straight weekend with Team 18.
“The car is so much fun to drive now. In the races I feel really confident,” says Pye.
“Awesome fun racing. When the confidence is there you feel like you can do anything.”
One of Pye’s late-race victims is Coulthard, who looks solid enough for third for most of the race, until his rival arrives with much more Dunlop grip. Even so, it’s a good result for the driver in the second Shell Mustang.
Cam Waters is solid in fifth, Jamie Whincup manages a workmanlike sixth, and James Courtney continues his solid run at Tickford with seventh in the Boost Mustang.
The biggest losers are Chaz Mostert and Nick Percat, who race hard in the bottom end of the Top 10 until they tangle with less than 10 laps to the flag.
Percat is tagged and spins at Turn 1, while Mostert loses out with a 15-second penalty.
“It didn’t end the way we wanted. But rubbing is racing,” says Mostert.
“It’s disappointing. He fired me off into the weeds,” says Percat.
Heading into the final 38-lap sprint at Darwin1, it’s McLaughlin and van Gisbergen again on the front row, but with the positions reversed as the Red Bull HRT starts on the dirty side of the road from pole.
“Hopefully we can tickle it up. We’ll see what we’ve got in the afternoon,” says SvG.
RACE 17 – 38 LAPS
|Shane van Gisbergen
|Anton de Pasquale