Can the old guard fire in Townsville?

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By , Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

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    Mark Winterbottom will be just one of the drivers looking to restart their season in Melbourne. (AAP Image/Edge Photographics)

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    As the midpoint of the 2017 Supercars championship nears, there is no clear indication of who will be claiming the coveted touring car title, with the battle continuing to intrigue.

    Having contested twelve races thus far, it is dumfounding however to see big names like Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom yet to notch up race wins in 2017 – despite their top six positions in the standings.

    Six-time Supercars champion Whincup, as already documented by the column, remains in a favourable position in the points tally despite lacking a race victory. It is Winterbottom however, that requires a turn of fortunes in Townville this weekend to remain in touch with the leaders.

    The 2015-series champ has endured a difficult start to the present campaign, with a number of reliability issues plaguing the #5 Bottle ‘O Racing Ford – resulting in a 406-point deficit to the championship leader in Fabian Coulthard.

    While Frosty’s Prodrive stablemate Chaz Mostert has achieved a win in 2017 and multiple podiums, the 36-year old Ford faithful will be eyeing vindication of the speedy Falcon FG X at a circuit where great success has been gleaned in recent years.

    During his championship winning season, Winterbottom swept the Townsville event in dominant fashion in a run that saw the Ford driver score four consecutive wins during the middle portion of the season.

    Having not won in Townsville last year, Winterbottom still demonstrated strong form with a pole position and two podium finishes across the weekend. In fact, Frosty holds the circuit record for most pole positions – one more than his Holden rival in Whincup.

    So fickle is the current championship picture, that one good (or bad) weekend can immensely change the fortunes of any driver. As attested to by reigning champ Shane van Gisbergen, who haemorrhaged 150-points in Darwin due to a DNF.

    Mark Winterbottom looking towards Phillip Island

    (AAP Image/Edge Photographics)

    Townsville’s Reid Park offers a unique and unforgiving layout, in that it is half a street circuit and half parklands, with a combination of heavy braking zones as well as fast corners. With any street track, there is also the factor of treacherous walls and if there was anything to happen to the DJR Team Penske or Red Bull Holdens ahead, the Prodrive Fords would be on hand to capitalise.

    Nevertheless, Prodrive and Winterbottom will need to find car pace ultimately to be able to match the leading quartet. Neither of the two leading squads look to be waning in their development, so thus the onus is on the Victorian outfit to make strides.

    Furthermore, Townsville is a venue where Whincup boasts the most wins of any driver and there’s no doubt that with the hunger he possesses to get the monkey off the back in 2017, that he’d find something extra this weekend to make it so.

    The question is though, whether his fellow member of the old guard in Frosty can arrive a contender for wins also, to remain a hope for the championship race.