As Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton streak away towards their respective sixth Formula One world championships, the 2019 season at the front has largely been a tale of contrasting fortunes for rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.
It was the last event of Supercars’ northern trek for 2019 – and indeed the last bit of racing before a month-long break – and the Ipswich SuperSprint didn’t disappoint.
Queensland Raceway is the little circuit that boasts plenty, and with drought-breaking results, slow pit stops and a birthday celebration gone wrong, here are the talking points from Ipswich.
A pair of drought-breaking results during the Saturday race was the highlight of the opening 39-lap leg of the Ipswich SuperSprint.
Jamie Whincup, who had been winless since the Sandown 500 last September, took an imperious victory in typical Whincup fashion, having forced his way past pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin on the opening lap.
From there, the seven-time Supercars champion controlled the affair and finished a comfortable three seconds ahead of his close friend and Ford driver Will Davison, who himself has broken a drought for podiums.
Starting a season-best third on the grid, Davison has not featured on a Supercars podium since his last gasp victory at the 2016 Bathurst 1000 for Tekno Autosports. Davison made the switch from Holden to Ford in 2018, when he left Tekno for Phil Munday’s newly born 23Red Racing team.
Now operating out of the Tickford stable, Davison secured his first podium in over 1000 days in emphatic fashion, ahead of team-mate Chaz Mostert. This is the maiden podium finish for Munday’s 23Red Racing.
For Whincup, the win vindicates the recovery in form for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, who’ve been demonstrating strong race pace of late, though have struggled to match their rivals in qualifying spec.
Davison, meanwhile, has been consistently inside the top ten of the championship all season thus far. Buoyed by the dominant Ford Mustang and indeed having access to team-mate data from the likes of Mostert, Cameron Waters and Lee Holdsworth.
Ford win the manufacturer’s title
All the numbers have been in favour of the Blue Oval in 2019 and the biggest prize for manufacturers in Supercars has already gone the way of Ford, with McLaughlin’s Sunday win clinching the title.
Having last won the manufacturer’s crown in 2018, Ford has secured enough wins this season to claim the title in their first full campaign with factory support and the all-new, ultra-dominant Mustang.
Out of the 20 races thus far, Ford have won 17 of them with a mighty 14 going the way of McLaughlin. Coulthard has two wins to his name for 2019, whilst Mostert is the sole victor from the Tickford stable also racing the Mustang.
Despite multiple changes to the Mustang by Supercars throughout the season far – a bid to ensure parity with their Holden and Nissan rivals – it has been the class of the Shell V-Power team that has led the marque to a second manufacturer’s title in three years.
McLaughlin’s own form has been peerless, being a class above the rest in qualifying and then converting during the races despite the car changes and a form response in recent races from Triple Eight.
With still half a season of racing to go, including the all-important Enduro Cup which will commence in October with the famed Bathurst 1000, all eyes will be on McLaughlin and DJR Team Penske to further assert themselves and seal the driver’s and team’s titles as well.
Celebrations were dampened, though, with Supercars issuing two separate fines to McLaughlin for his post-race celebrations, with a $3000 penalty for doing burnouts beyond the nominated points on the circuit.
A further $10,000 fine was given to the Kiwi for displaying a non-permitted item on the podium, which was just a poster showing ‘Ford news: Mustang wins the title.’
Troubles in the pit lane
There were plenty of costly pit stops during Saturday’s Race 19 and it was championship leader McLaughlin who was the biggest name to endure a slow stop.
Having lost the lead of the race at the start to Whincup, McLaughlin’s focus was to undercut his rivals to gain back the ground he had lost. On Lap 10, the Shell V-Power Mustang came in for its first round of service, only for a delay in changing the left-front ending his hopes of a recovery.
Tickford cars of Davison and Mostert on fresher tyres at the end of the race were able to displace the Kiwi off the podium. McLaughlin was fortunate though to hold off a speedy Shane van Gisbergen to secure fourth in the opening leg of the weekend.
David Reynolds also was hampered by a slow stop once again, after a costly pit stop in Townsville on Saturday potentially cost the Erebus driver his first win of the season.
The Penrite Commodore also pitted on Lap 10, though the slow stop meant that Reynolds was unable to make any ground and finished a position below where he started – behind the Brad Jones racer Nick Percat.
In Race 20, Reynolds was forced to take an extra stop after the minimum fuel drop wasn’t met in the compulsory two stops. Another costly mistake for the Erebus pit crew, who’ve hit a rotten patch of form and for the #9 car it was a lowly 19th place finish.
Adding salt to the wound that has been an uninspiring season to date for Walkinshaw Andretti United, Scott Pye who had been running 15th prior to his pit stop dropped down to 21st as a result of a left-rear tyre that wouldn’t come off.
McLaughlin beats Van Gisbergen in nail biter
The two heavyweight teams locked horns again in Race 20, as McLaughlin had his lead of the race challenged by Shane van Gisbergen in the dying laps on Sunday.
Unchallenged throughout the 65-lap race, it wasn’t until the last five or so laps that Van Gisbergen threatened the leading Shell V-Power Mustang, having had divergent pit strategies during the race.
The 2016 series champion started from fourth and made both his stops after McLaughlin, with the first stop seeing Red Bull drop extra fuel in to yield a gain in the second stop, where less fuel would have to be put in. Lapped traffic didn’t make things any better for McLaughlin.
In the end, it was the hallmark of the reigning champion’s race craft that kept Van Gisbergen behind and claimed a 14th win of the season.
Another 150 points in the championship standings extends McLaughlin’s lead over team-mate Coulthard to a mighty 433 points, which is well over a round’s worth of points.
Not so happy birthday
Fresh off the back of re-signing for another season at DJR Team Penske in Townsville, Fabian Coulthard would have been hoping to celebrate his 37th birthday on the Sunday at Queensland Raceway a lot better than things eventuated on track.
The Kiwi had the first blow dealt to his day during qualifying, where he was eliminated in the second phase by the slimmest of margins.
Starting the 65-lap Race 20 from 11th, Coulthard came unstuck with Anton de Pasquale, who himself was re-signed by Erebus for 2020, on the tenth lap of the race.
Whilst it appeared that the Penrite Commodore escorted the Shell V-Power Mustang off, there was no further action deemed by the stewards with the matter dismissed as a racing incident.
Coulthard did lock his brakes hard heading into the corner, with no room for De Pasquale on the outside to go.
But it ultimately put a dent in the Kiwi’s weekend, having only finished tenth on Saturday and then 18th after the tangle with the Erebus.