Has DJR Team Penske finally emerged?

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By Jawad Yaqub, Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

 , ,

6 Have your say

    Supercars retro round is about more than just liveries. (Photo: POLESTAR Volvo)

    Related coverage

    2014 saw US motorsport giant Roger Penske announce that he’d venturing into the Australian touring car scene, with our own legendary equivalent in Dick Johnson.

    Between these two titans, there had been much to be enthusiastic about.

    The newly formed DJR Team Penske in 2015 appeared that it would be what would return the Queensland-based Ford outfit to the front of the category.

    However, as we enter the third year of this union, there has been little fruit yielded to this powerhouse operation.

    A race win has eluded the squad since prior to the Penske partnership in 2013, where rookie Chaz Mostert emphatically triumphed at Ipswich, while the number of podiums gleaned can be counted on one hand.

    Coming out of the first race weekend of the 2017 Supercars season at the Clipsal 500, DJR Team Penske may finally have emerged as the force they were originally expected to be.

    » Every V8 race live on Foxtel

    A pair of podiums in both of the gruelling 250km races were bolstered by dual Top Ten Shootout appearances for Kiwi Fabian Coulthard and his new compatriot teammate Scott McLaughlin.

    The Sunday race saw young gun McLaughlin charge into the lead from third on the grid, before succumbing to the pressure placed by reigning series champion in Shane van Gisbergen, in the dying stages of the race.

    Despite not walking away with the highest honour that day, Adelaide did go as far as vindicating the 23-year old’s shock switch from Garry Rogers Motorsport to DJR Team Penske – and highlight his seamless transition from the moribund Volvo S60 to the Falcon FG X.

    With a strong engineering combination in Phil Keed and controversial (but mightily intelligent) Triple Eight defector Ludo Lacroix, both Coulthard and McLaughlin have the nous to steer them forwards in the coming season.

    For new recruit McLaughlin, witnessing an instant chemistry between he and Frenchman Lacroix, only speaks positively about what to expect.

    The French connection is even stronger too for the pilot of car No.17, with McLaughlin’s old teammate and co-driver in Alex Prémat also departing from Triple Eight to reunite with the Kiwi.

    Coulthard’s own engineer Keed, who moved with the 5-time race winner from Brad Jones Racing for 2015, himself has a strong relationship with engineering mastermind Lacroix – hinting at more cohesion between both cars than previously.

    With all these pieces in place and early results to vindicate the off-season changes, the challenge for DJR Team Penske lies within maintaining consistency across the 26-race campaign.

    Translating the Adelaide form across the diverse roster of circuits from Winton to Hidden Valley or Phillip Island to Newcastle – will be key in attempting to dethrone van Gisbergen and destabilise the Red Bull juggernaut.

    For the first time since becoming DJR Team Penske, the squad is a genuine threat. The likes of fellow Ford operation in Prodrive Racing and the HSV Racing Team still appear to be in arrears of the leading Red Bull Holdens, leaving the 7-time Supercars champions as having emerged as their new title rival.

    And for two iconic names in Johnson and Penske, being at the sharp end of any racing category is their mantra.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (6)

    • Roar Guru

      March 10th 2017 @ 4:39pm
      Bayden Westerweller said | March 10th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

      Let the events immediately following the AGP consolidate this notion and its resurrection can be confirmed. Whilst several outfits have proven they can contend on any given Sunday (and Saturday), very few have been able to sustain the output across an entire campaign, which Triple Eight has achieved for the balance of the past decade.

      The immediate cohesion between McLaughlin and his new environment, in tandem with the respective engineers’ seamless rapport bodes extremely well for a concerted title bid. It’d be remiss to discount Coulthard from the equation. In many respects, there are few excuses for him if the team fires, on account of his twelve month head start on his more esteemed compatriot.

      • Roar Guru

        March 10th 2017 @ 9:02pm
        Jawad Yaqub said | March 10th 2017 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

        Yes and the same can be said about any outfit hoping to become regular race winners this season. Though in 2016, DJR Team Penske had reasonable form up to Phillip Island, where after they just tapered off for the remainder of the season.

        Coulthard is a solid operator and whilst I also think Scott Pye is a great driver with untapped potential, the all-Kiwi combination now at the team is probably one of the most potent on the grid. Fabs has the consistency to deliver, which his 2013 season can attest to – so hopefully with all the right ingredients on hand for 2017, he can also return to the winner’s circle.

        • Roar Guru

          March 10th 2017 @ 10:40pm
          Bayden Westerweller said | March 10th 2017 @ 10:40pm | ! Report

          The key to being there at the pointy end is boasting an all-round package rather than one which is suited exclusively to, in this instance, street circuits. Even if this may slightly weaken some components in previously stronger departments. Triple Eight has mastered this and even with issues, such as the vibrations for SvG at Adelaide, yet found a way around as only the best outfits do.

          In deference to ‘Humble’ Pye, his entire DJRTP tenure was blighted by uncertainty regarding his future, a relentlessly tenuous relationship pending others’ actions, which couldn’t have aided his stability. Coulthard would be compelled to lift his game lest McLaughlin leaves him in his wake.

    • March 10th 2017 @ 5:11pm
      steve said | March 10th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

      Walkinshaw and James Courtney can contend if they can find some speed on permanent circuits, they have the street circuits worked out. That said, hopefully DJR Team Penske with their two good drivers pushing each other can really take it to the the Red Bulls. I’m gonna call it now, one of the DJR Penske cars will take the Bathurst crown.

      • Roar Guru

        March 10th 2017 @ 9:05pm
        Jawad Yaqub said | March 10th 2017 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

        That’s the thing though, ever since the introduction of the VF Commodore, Walkinshaw’s squad has been more so street specialists. Their test too (as I wrote in last week’s article) is to find that consistency across all circuits, instead of disappearing below the Top 10 every time we go to Winton or Ipswich.

        Haha, it may be too early to call, but when it was announced that Alex Prémat would be partnering with McLaughlin for the Enduros this year – I immediately thought of them being a strong combination to win the 1000.

    • March 13th 2017 @ 6:45pm
      Jacko said | March 13th 2017 @ 6:45pm | ! Report

      i think the difference is Scott McL. He is class and it wouldnt matter what he drove it would be better than others can drive it. Fabian has ability also and has been given a kick up the u no what and that will help him big time, but i still see SVG as the man to beat this season

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    , ,