Phillip Island has been the scene of some great Supercars racing for the past few decades, providing a contrast to the stop-turn-go circuits on the calendar with a European-style flow and an emphasis on aerodynamic balance.
One of the quickest tracks of the year, 66% of the lap is spent with steering lock on, making it hard on tyres and draining for drivers though the cream of the crop always end up near the pointy end.
Hosting the fourth round of the year, all forms of circuits have now been covered and Phillip Island provided a form guide as to what we can expect for the rest of the season.
- Scott McLaughlin is now the master of Phillip Island after nearly clean-sweeping the round for the third time in four years. As he took pole on Sunday, McLaughlin notched up his eighth straight pole position around the historic track and his tenth overall at the venue, a feat which no one looks to match any time soon. Heading a clean sweep of the front row for DJR Team Penske for both races, McLaughlin controlled race one, leading with a comfortable margin. A slow pit stop for the defending champion saw him slip back on Sunday, having to play second fiddle to his team-mate but still leaving the round with a clear championship lead. Seven wins so far this season shows just how in tune McLaughlin is with his Mustang, only two victories behind his 2018 tally and still carrying a 124 point lead in the standings.
- Fabian Coulthard finally took his first win of the season at Phillip Island, overcoming a near year-long drought and ending the weekend as the equal round winner. While Coulthard had no answer for team-mate McLaughlin in qualifying, his two front row starts have him the best opportunity to take the fight to his fellow Kiwi, running side by side into turn one in race one. A solid second place helped solidify his place in the championship but he’d have better luck on Sunday, having a better run with strategy and car pace throughout the race. Coulthard controlled the final stint, coming home ahead of McLaughlin to take his first victory since Winton last year. Now extending his gap to Chaz Mostert in the championship standings, Coulthard can still be champion this year but the priority for DJR Team Penske will be to secure the teams championship after failing to do so last year.
- Erebus Motorsport well and truly proved that they can be the best of the rest after a hard fought weekend at Phillip Island netted the team’s best success of 2019 so far. After securing a breakthrough podium for 2019 in Tasmania, David Reynolds kept the pace up in race one for the weekend, only just missing out on the podium to come home fourth. Though he completed Sunday’s race in 11th, his team-mate Anton de Pasquale did the heavy lifting for the team in the 200km outing. After finishing 12th in race one, despite topping opening practice, the second year driver bounced back on Sunday to claim his maiden Supercars podium. Beating his previous best Supercars finish of seventh, also secured at Phillip Island last year, de Pasquale fought hard for his first top three finish and proved that he can be a good team player. While the team sits fifth in the teams championship, some 592 points down on the lead, they’re only 81 points behind second place in a tight battle for the second pit bay.
- Triple Eight had a weekend to forget in one of their toughest outings in years, failing to reach the top five with either car over the two races. So far struggling this year with the change back to linear springs from their twin-spring setup which they spent last season trying to perfect, Shane van Gisbergen’s win in Tasmania must feel like more than a week ago as the team struggled for pace all weekend at Phillip Island. Jamie Whincup failed to fire in the knockout qualifying on Saturday, starting 17th and making a slight impression before a bungled pitstop saw him released without his wheel secured, leading the #88 car to retire. Sunday again saw him struggle for pace, qualifying 10th but finishing in 12th, now sitting ninth in the championship. van Gisbergen was left to collect points for the team across the two races, his sixth and seventh place finishes were far from what was needed in an attempt to recreate his championship battle last year. Now over 500 points behind DJR Team Penske in the teams championship, the factory Holden team has to get a hold on the year quickly before before dropping behind the other squads in the standings.
- James Courtney and his horror 2019 continued this round with the 2010 champion ending last of the runners in both races. Qualifying 18th for Saturday’s race, Courtney was obviously unimpressed with his one-lap pace, giving himself a hard task to secure points over the 120km race. While he slowly made his way up the field, a front right tyre failure going into turn one after the leaders had already taken their stops all but ended his race early. He was able to finish but was the last of the classified cars. Using the poor result as motivation, Courtney qualified in ninth for race two, wanting to break through for a top ten. However, contact with Todd Hazelwood on the first lap saw the Matt Stone Racing driver spin and earned Courtney a 15 second penalty. As if things could get any worse, another two front right tyre failures compounded the forgettable weekend for the Walkinshaw Andretti United driver who has now dropped back to 13th in the title hunt.
- Garry Rogers Motorsport will be counting down to the start of the inaugural TCR series after a dismal weekend for its Supercars drivers. Investing in two second-year talents this year, it’s been a hard campaign for the team without an experienced driver. Finishing 13th and 14th in race one, James Golding and Richie Stanaway couldn’t make the top half of the field though the Kiwi notched up his best result of the year. Sunday however was a big fall from grace with Golding and Stanaway only managing 22nd and 23rd respectively, partly due to a double stack though a lack of pace didn’t help. From being one of the most popular teams from 2014 to 2016 in the Volvo days, GRM has had a big change in their operations of late and must refocus to become a key Supercars team again.
Next up, the series heads west to Perth for the SuperNight round, being held at Barbagallo Raceway this year after great success at Sydney Motorsport Park in 2018. A short, hard track, Barbagallo has just been resurfaced which will add another factor into the mix in one of the most important races of the year.
Image via Tickford Racing
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