Scott Pye and Rick Kelly added the much-needed spice to a regulation race win by Scott McLaughlin on Saturday in Townsville.
McLaughlin went A-to-B from pole position using the same set-up in his Shell V-Power Mustang that had given him a win in the final event at Townsville1, an ominous effort for anyone hoping to threaten him during the follow-up Sunday sprints at Reid Park.
“The car was a jet. We stuck to our guns from last week. Used exactly the same set-up from last week,” says McLaughlin.
“A lot of work has been done to make me feel comfortable under brakes … going into the corner. Then I can straighten it up and drive out.
“The race car, last week, there was nothing wrong with it. We just bolted it in again.”
While SuperScott stroked to his 10th victory of the season, a win made much easier when Shane van Gisbergen was forced to park with power steering failure, it was Pye and Kelly who carved up through the field to finish in 9th and 11th places.
They were bold and aggressive, Pye showing the speed which has emerged this season in his Team18 Commodore and Kelly capitalising on set-up changes to his Castrol Mustang.
“It’s a raw beast as it is right now. It felt so much better. It’s still not the fastest car but it’s a lot better,” says Kelly.
The race should have been a battle between McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen, with Jamie Whincup battling for the minors with a bunch of drivers including Chaz Mostert and Cam Waters.
But it didn’t work that way, as SvG was forced to retire and Whincup was never racy enough for better than fourth, leaving the podium places to Waters and Mostert and the Red Bull Holden Racing Team planning for a better Sunday.
“Really happy day. Let’s hope we can do a little better tomorrow,” says Waters, who is also looking for more Sunday speed from the Monster Mustang to threaten McLaughlin.
“I’m pretty motivated. I hate losing. We’ll keep working and we’ll hunt him down.”
Mostert is still getting to know his WAU Commodore but plenty of weekday work and fresh parts is making him happy.
“Good to have this Top 5 pace again. Obviously a bit lucky today. Still need to take a step forward to get podiums,” says Mostert.
But, like Waters and van Gisbergen and Whincup and all the rest, he is hopeful of more on Sunday.
“We’ll see what we can make as a plan for the next one.”
But McLaughlin, who now has a 143-point margin over Whincup in the championship, has his own ideas.
“I’m feeling really happy. We’ll press on tomorrow and have some fun.”
Race 22: 39 laps
|Anton de Pasquale
|Jack Le Brocq