Opening laps don’t get more chaotic than this!
Round 6 of the 2019 Supercars championship brought the touring car thunder back into the Victorian high country and to the technical, testing track at Winton Motor Raceway.
Many miles have been clocked at this circuit across many defining races. This weekend’s SuperSprint was no different, with plenty of incidents and more records claimed by reigning champion Scott McLaughlin.
Here are five of the main talking points from another action-packed Winton SuperSprint.
It’s always awkward to be involved in an on-track incident with a teammate, more so when it involves a pair of championship contenders – and that’s exactly what happened to Shell V-Power Racing in the opening leg of the Winton SuperSprint.
Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard started fifth and second respectively, with Coulthard getting a poor getaway and losing places to James Courtney and David Reynolds, all before the Ford duo made contact at Turn 5, sending both drivers across the grass.
McLaughlin controversially rejoined the pack in third, while Coulthard was handed a penalty for the incident.
“I went off the road and tried to get back and rejoin in the right position, but I was going to go the wrong way, so I was dammed if I did and dammed if I didn’t,” McLaughlin responded post-race.
In the end the reigning champion took the lead of the race following the pit stops to win, with David Reynolds penalised from the front for punting Courtney out of the lead earlier.
Coulthard, who accepted blame for the incident, finished 15th following his penalty and conceded valuable championship points to his teammate at the top of the table as a result.
McLaughlin completes Winton double
After a scrappy victory on Saturday McLaughlin drove a smooth race on Sunday to notch up his tenth win of the season from his ninth pole position.
The Kiwi also smashed the qualifying record on course to that pole, recording 1:18.523 in the final leg of the knockout session. He was also half a second clear of Coulthard, who joined his teammate on the front row.
Getting a clean start on this occasion, the reigning champion accelerated ahead of teammate Coulthard and then executed a perfect pair of pit stops to maintain the lead of the race and extend his advantage in the championship.
Coulthard cruised home in second ahead of Jamie Whincup, who held off Reynolds for a place on the podium and valuable points in the standings. The Red Bull Holden driver jumped up to fifth after a poor race from Chaz Mostert saw him drop a place.
With a 244-point lead, McLaughlin isn’t quite a full round of points ahead of Coulthard in the standings, but with his current form it may take more than what’s currently happening for the Kiwi to be stopped from going back to back.
Mostert’s Sunday recovery drive
A podium on Saturday from pole position gave way to a more difficult Sunday for the Tickford driver after dropping to the rear of the field on the first lap of the 67-lap Race 14.
Mostert found himself in the grass at Turn 7 on his own before going off again the following lap at Turn 3 when he passed the wildcard entry of Jack Smith. An unusual amount of understeer looked to be hampering the Supercheap Auto racer.
The 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner then found himself making contact with Courtney, who was again in the wars this weekend. Mostert copped a 15-second time penalty for the indiscretion.
A late pit stop behind the safety car put Mostert on new tyres along with BJR’s Nick Percat. The pair picked their way through the field to finish back inside the top ten, with Percat ahead of Mostert in ninth.
Tickford teammate Lee Holdsworth recorded fifth place, his best finish of the season since joining the Ford team, ahead of teammate Cameron Waters. A non-finish for Will Davison is what brought out that safety car.
Stanaway withdraws with neck injury
After Saturday’s Race 13 GRM driver Richie Stanaway withdrew from the remainder of the Winton SuperSprint having battled neck pains throughout the week. The Kiwi finished a lap down from the leader in the first race. A clash with Simona De Silvestro didn’t do much to aid his situation, nor did a heavy crash during practice, requiring repairs to his Commodore, work to his advantage.
Since his controversial departure from Tickford at the end of 2018 Stanaway’s start to life at GRM has been less than sensational, with his best finish 14th place back at Phillip Island.
The Kiwi currently sits 21st in the standings, two places behind teammate and fellow sophomore driver James Golding.
Replacing him for Race 14 was co-driver and compatriot Chris Pither, who equalled Stanaway’s season-best result of 14th. Pither was on course for a team-best 13th only to lose out to Chaz Mostert, who was charging up the order following the late safety car.
Co-driver cup continues
Despite the weather not being at its finest, the co-drivers were afforded another 30-minute practice session prior to Race 13 ahead of the Enduro Cup commencing with the Bathurst 1000 in October.
The experienced Craig Lowndes and Garth Tander topped the session in mixed conditions for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, the two former Supercars champions and multiple Bathurst winners creating hype their appointments.
Completing the top five were the Walkinshaw Commodores – much improved since a disastrous Perth outing – being steered once again by Warren Luff and Jack Perkins.
Erebus elected to hand their cars to a pair of Super2 juniors – Broc Feeney, who was sixth fastest, and Jordan Boys. Their Enduro line-up remains the same as last year, with Luke Youlden and Will Brown. This session was just a sampler for the two youngsters.
Also confirmed ahead of Winton was Kelly Racing’s endurance line-up, with Bryce Fullwood and Dale Wood being called up to partner Andre Heimgartner and Rick Kelly respectively. Dean Fiore and Alex Rullo retain their spots in the four-car Nissan squad, while the Cooldrive Commodore of Macauley Jones will see the experienced Dean Canto co-drive this season.