Round two of this year’s Supercars Championship was the scene of yet another display of Mustang dominance with the newly homologated hero for the Blue Oval taking every pole and race win on offer.
With championship points on offer for the second time at the Australian Grand Prix support round, some crucial wins and costly errors highlighted the weekend for each end of the 24 car field.
A landmark round in the history of the Australian Touring Car CHampionship, Saturday’s earlier sprint saw the 1000th race in the category’s life so far, dating back to 1960 in a race just outside of Orange in New South Wales.
300 points were on offer over the four races, giving a chance for the more consistent drivers to notch up some much needed points on the board.
- Scott McLaughlin has extended his championship lead after nearly taking another clean sweep this year. The defending series champion has taken victory in five of the year’s six races, already more than half way to his personal record last year of nine in a season. After converting two poles to two wins in the opening races, a strange incident in the third race of the weekend with Cam Waters on the way to the grid took them both out of the race, leaving the front row vacant. Despite the non-start, McLaughlin still led the points standings at the end of the day and bounced back on Sunday to take his third win of the round from second on the grid. With 500 points in his account, it’s a good start to the year for the DJR Team Penske driver as the new Ford Mustang has been flawless in its debut season so far.
- Chaz Mostert might have been hit and miss in the opening round of the season in Adelaide but the 2014 Bathurst 1000 champion bounced back with a vengeance in Melbourne, being the most consistent driver of the weekend to earn himself the Larry Perkins Trophy. Though he qualified a lowly 22nd for the first outing, an overtaking masterclass as well as some unfortunate retirements for those around him meant he ended up in fifth by the end of the race. Improvements in the next race moved him up to second while the incident between team-mate Cam Waters and Scott McLaughlin ahead of the Sunday evening race made his job easier, fighting from fourth to first in the race. The victory was his first solo win since Queensland Raceway in 2017 and, coupled with a second place in the last outing, it helped him get the round win. Now third in the points, it’s one of Mostert’s best starts to a season as he looks for a first title in 2019.
- Jamie Whincup has so far proved himself as the best of the rest in 2019, staying within an arm’s reach of the championship lead despite not yet racking up a win this season. The seven time champion botched up a milestone 200th podium on the weekend; an impressive feat when you realise there have been 1002 championship races. While he hasn’t looked to be fighting for a victory on car pace, consistency has been and always will be his key, never been far from the pointy end. When McLaughlin fell by the wayside before race five and Mostert struggled in Adelaide, Whincup was there to collect points. Just like 2017 where he won his most recent championship despite not picking up a race win in the first half of the year, you can never write off the series’ most successful driver from producing something special.
- Shane Van Gisbergen had an unforgettable weekend but ultimately it was one the 2016 champion will want to erase from his memory. Albert Park has always been one of Van Gisbergen’s dud tracks but this time around his loss of potential points wasn’t down to a lack of pace. Race one saw him fight up the field from qualifying mid-pack, looking on track for a top five finish until the engine in his Triple Eight Commodore decided no more only a few laps from the flag. Race two saw him manage his only top ten of the weekend, improving one place from qualifying to finish in tenth. Saturday evening’s race was a tough one to swallow when a wheel came off the right rear of the car late into the race, forcing him to pit and go laps down. Sunday capped off a horrid weekend for the Kiwi when he clashed with countryman Fabian Coulthard on track, forcing the Ford driver to go down the turn 13 escape road. The contact earned van Gisbergen a 15 second penalty, dropping him to 22nd and in the process making it his worst round since Homebush 2012.
- Macauley Jones is enduring a tough initiation to full-time Supercars driving with two major incidents hampering his first two rounds of the championship so far. After a frightening crash in Saturday practice ahead of the Adelaide 500, he made it back on to the grid for Sunday and reverted to a spare chassis for the Melbourne 400. Two 22nd places were not the starts he wanted for the Albert Park round but things soon turned worse with DNF’s in the final two races, including the weekend’s biggest crash in the closing race. Looking to make a pass on the compromises Simona De Silvestero between turns 13 and 14, Jones chased her to the inside but so did Garry Jacobson, De Silvestro’s team-mate. The contact saw Jones hit the inside concrete wall, ending his race. With Brad Jones Racing team-mates Tim Slade and Nick Percat currently enjoying a better run of form, Jones will be looking to learn from them and to start making an impression in his rookie year.
- Kelly Racing has continued to endure a tough start to its first season without factory support since 2013. After Nissan dropped the Melbourne outfit from its factory program, this year was always going to be an uphill struggle though friendly fire and basic mistakes haven’t helped things. Team owner Rick Kelly was the first to earn the ire of the stewards after hit pit crew released him in to the path of James Golding in race one, resulting in a 43 second post race time penalty. Sunday’s race saw the teams’ championship entry of Kelly and Garry Jacobson docked 50 points for failing to install the judicial camera memory card into Kelly’s car. Jacobson was lucky to avoid a time penalty for his part in the aforementioned Macauley Jones incident but De Silvestro had five seconds added to her race time after roughing up Golding on the final lap. For the team’s four cars to achieve a best finish of ninth thanks to Andre Heimgartner in race three is a poor effort when none of the other drivers could even crack the top 15 in any of the four races. Friendly fire between Kelly, Jacobson and De Silvestro in Sunday’s race will make for an interesting debrief as the team looks to fight its way out of the mid pack.
The field has a better chance of putting the Mustang’s reign to an end next time out at the Symmons Plains Raceway in Tasmania. It’s been a happy hunting ground for Triple Eight over the years who are looking for their first race win since Pukekohe last season.
Pic via Ignite Image