Supercars mid-season review: Another Ford vs Holden classic

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By , Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

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    Shane van Gisbergen. (AAP Image/Edge Photographics)

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    The foundations of the Supercars championship is built upon the rivalry between the prestigious Ford and Holden marques, with both duking it out to attain supremacy of touring car racing in Australia.

    2017 has been no different, spawning a fresh match-up between incumbent juggernauts in Triple Eight and the emerging powerhouse that is DJR Team Penske.

    The acquisitions of Scott McLaughlin and long-time Triple Eight engineer Ludo Lacroix, have seen the Queensland based Ford outfit assume the status of flying the Blue Oval flag this season – and challenge the benchmark Holden squad.

    Reigning series champion in Shane van Gisbergen burst out of the blocks at the top of the season, to sweep the first weekend in Adelaide and assume an early lead in the standings.

    This signalled that a further domination from the newly christened factory Holden team was on the cards for 2017, until Round 2 at Symmons Plains where Fabian Coulthard and the Ford squad broke through for their first win since 2013.

    Since then, between Coulthard and his new teammate McLaughlin, there have been nine race wins achieved compared to the two that the Red Bull Holden Racing Team have accumulated.

    McLaughlin, who has been the benchmark in 2017, has amassed six wins to date along with a mighty eleven pole positions. The Kiwi sits 129-points clear at the top of the championship table, ahead of six-time Supercars champion Jamie Whincup.

    It is astonishing to fathom that a driver of Whincup’s prestige, has only a single race win to his credit – with that coming at the recently concluded Townsville 400.

    The 34-year old, despite the lack of more wins, has by far been the most consistent driver behind McLaughlin. Nine podiums, in comparison to Van Gisbergen’s seven, sees the former champion in the favourable position – while a barren run from Phillip Island onward for the 28-year old Kiwi sees him down in fourth, with a deficit of 261-points.

    Coulthard, like Van Gisbergen has suffered from poor weekends. Once the championship leader, the Ford driver has dropped to third in the standings after a tumultuous round in Townsville and a subsequent drought of podiums in Ipswich.

    Shane Van Gisbergen wins the 2016 Tasmanian Super Sprint

    (AAP Image/Edge Photographics)

    There is a dark horse in this championship too and despite a gap of 351-points to the leading car, Chaz Mostert from the Prodrive Ford team remains a threat to the title chase.

    Having notched up his second win of the season in Race 16 at the Ipswich SuperSprint, the 25-year old has been the leading force for the Victorian team and despite the limitations in performance of their Falcon FG X, relative to DJR Team Penske – Mostert has rekindled the form that saw him a contender in 2015, prior to his horrific Bathurst crash.

    As heavily eluded to in previous columns, the Enduro Cup is coming soon and with its unpredictable nature, there is an inkling that in 2017 it could have a severe impact on the championship’s outcome.

    With 300-points on offer for each of the two marquee spectacles at Sandown and Bathurst, someone such as Mostert, who’ve been quietly accumulating could sneak up from under the Red Bull Holdens and DJRTP Fords.

    It would be remiss also not to mention the likes of Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes, despite them being notably absent from the race for the championship in 2017.

    2015-series champion Winterbottom’s form coincides with that of his Prodrive team, where car troubles have plagued much of their campaign. Sitting 561-points adrift of McLaughlin in sixth, effectively ends Frosty’s hopes for second title in 2017 – though the target should be taking wins away from the leaders.

    Similarly, Lowndes sits 579-points behind in seventh and has been without a podium this season, let alone a victory. The loss of his chief engineer Lacroix to their Ford rivals, promoted John McGregor into the role, but little success has been gleaned thus far in the new relationship.

    Fifth and sixth in Ipswich did spell a positive upturn for Triple Eight’s third car, though there will be further trials the next round at Eastern Creek and then the Enduros. If form is found, Lowndes could cause headaches for his rivals currently contesting for the crown.

    As the 2017 Supercars championships enters its crux phase, the tension between the top five drivers will be palpable.

    Can McLaughlin, who has been so strong throughout the first half of the season continue his form? Or will the experienced hand of Whincup start to assert himself, as he has done previously to seal out a record seventh title.

    Coulthard and Van Gisbergen remain very much in the hunt, though will they rediscover the consistency that saw them atop the standings in the early part of the season?

    And can Mostert pocket the big points on offer across the Enduros to put he and Prodrive closer to the leading quartet?

    There are many questions, that only time will tell now as we await the final ten races of the season.