Supercars: Five things
The top V8 contenders at Queensland Raceway
As the usual suspects begin to gather at the top of the Supercars championship ladder, the V8 category descends on Queensland Raceway to mark the second stanza of the season at the home track of four of the top six drivers.
The six are separated by just 210 points and it’s daylight to seventh after last week’s Townsville contest solidified the front markers for the first time this season. And with four Triple Eight-built cars on their home blacktop, the weekend holds the possibility of the Brisbane-based team emerging triumphant with the top three positions on the championship ladder. But motorsport’s a fickle beast and they’ll have some serious competition.
On recent form, it’s all but a dead-heat between the Triple Eight trio of Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup and newcomer Shane Van Gisbergen. But Lowndes gets the nod here on account of history, having more race wins, podiums and pole positions combined than any other driver in the field. Yes, he’s been around longer. But many of those wins and podiums have come this decade, while he also scored a pole position at Ipswich last year. Plus, he'll be ruing missed opportunity in Townsville when a pitlane tyre error cost him what looked to be a certain podium.
Then there’s Whincup, who would have won Townsville on Sunday had it not been for a last-minute team strategy change that advantaged Van Gisbergen.
He’s in a near identical car to the Red Bull trio and shares a garage with Lowndes. And Tekno driver Will Davison is desperate to shake the stepbrother tag and outdo his Triple Eight siblings on their home track. He currently sits sixth in the championship and could drift out of touch of the top-five if he doesn’t perform this weekend at his test track, where Tekno has a depth of data available to them. He’s Whincup’s best friend, he’s in Van Gisbergen’s old car and he shares his garage with Lowndes at home - he’s got all the right ingredients and motivation to finally emerge from their shadows.
He makes it his job to know his rivals’ home circuit as well as them and Mark Winterbottom has proved a formidable force in both qualifying and races at QR since back in 2008 with four round wins, including last year. He’s podiumed in seven of his past 11 races, including a race win, and qualified quickest on Sunday in Townsville before finishing third. And he’ll be almost as well equipped as his local rivals given Prodrive’s access to DJR Team Penske's latest data through their customer deal. He’d take great enjoyment in upsetting Whincup and co at home.
Sitting fifth in the championship, it’s reasonable to consider Scott McLaughlin one of the form drivers of the series. But look a little closer and you’ll notice since Volvo’s announcement to withdraw support, coupled with his contract negotiations at DJR, the young Kiwi gun has been misfiring. In fact, he’s enjoyed just two podiums from his past eight races and his best qualifying result since Phillip Island was a fourth in Winton. Since that, he’s started mid-pack at best and his results have suffered equally. He qualified on the second row of the grid at QR twice last year and scored a podium finish. He needs to arrest his form here.
The dark horse
Chaz Mostert has struggled since his return from a season-ending smash at Bathurst last year but QR might just serve as the remedy to spark his return to form. The youngster has history in Queensland, winning his first ever race back in 2013 on a sensational Sunday for Dick Johnson as the team’s future hung in the balance. And he returned to the top step of the podium at QR on Sunday last year. He’s made gradual improvement to start and finish fourth twice in Townsville, meaning his confidence will be up upon a return to his former home track.