Can the Kiwis be beaten at Pukekohe?

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By , Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

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    Shane van Gisbergen. (AAP Image/Edge Photographics)

    It has been an unprecedented year for the full-time Kiwi contingent in the Supercars championship, having won 15 of the 22 races contested so far.

    With only four races remaining in the 2017 championship, Fabian Coulthard, Scott McLaughlin and defending series champion Shane van Gisbergen will return to home soil this weekend as favourites.

    All three of the New Zealanders arrive at the penultimate Auckland SuperSprint round, in the top five of the championship with 189-points between standings leader Jamie Whincup and Van Gisbergen who sits fifth.

    A total of 300-points will be on offer in the revised format at Pukekohe Raceway and with all five drivers in the title hunt in strong form coming out of the Enduro Cup, there is a prospect for a salivating Trans-Tasman showdown.

    Chaz Mostert, who was the endurance champion alongside his Prodrive co-driver Steve Owen, made the most significant gains during the long-distance races to put him back into contention.

    In tandem with an upgrade in performance in the Prodrive Ford Falcon FG X, Mostert crosses the ditch to a circuit at which the Victorian Blue Oval squad have traditionally been strong at.

    Bemusing is the reality that Whincup has only two wins to date in 2017, despite the fact he captured the lead of the standings at the conclusion of the Gold Coast 600. The six-time Supercars champion’s ability to consistently stand on the podium, has what’s aided Whincup’s charge towards a record seventh title.

    However, Whincup has expressed his desire to win and demonstrate the true capability of his Red Bull Holden, following an uncharacteristic lean period through the Enduro Cup – yielding no wins for either car.

    Triple Eight and the Red Bull Holden Racing Team have always been a force at Pukekohe, though with DJR Team Penske having trumped them at several of their strong circuits in 2017 – there is nothing between the Holden and Ford powerhouses.

    Also on offer for the Auckland SuperSprint will be the alluring Jason Richards Memorial Trophy, a prize introduced at the return of Pukekohe to the championship in 2013, in memory of the much-loved Kiwi driver who lost his battle with cancer in 2011.

    The driver to accumulate the most points across the weekend, will be awarded the trophy.

    Van Gisbergen became the first Kiwi to claim the trophy in 2016, with Whincup being the only driver in championship contention currently, to have won it back in 2015.

    With the form that the Kiwi duo at DJR Team Penske have had throughout the season, both Coulthard and McLaughlin will very much be threats to fly the flag for New Zealand. The latter with fond memories of Pukekohe, having become the youngest race winner in Supercars back in 2013 with his maiden
    victory here.

    Time is running out in 2017 and the two races to be contested this weekend, will be crucial in determining how this championship unfolds. The question is, will the dominant Kiwis be brought to their knees?