The Top End of Australia is slowly becoming a haven for revheads and this year’s edition of the annual Supercars round at Hidden Valley gave passionate fans a great weekend of racing.
For the first time in the history of the Darwin event, the Triple Crown was finally achieved since the round’s inception in 1998. Unique to Hidden Valley, the Triple Crown consists of one driver taking the Saturday race win, pole in the Sunday Top Ten Shootout and the Sunday victory in the same round.
Though all the talk coming into the round was centred around more parity changes, this time to Holden’s ZB Commodore, everyone left wondering just how they’re going to catch one car in particular this year; the #17 Ford Falcon.
- Scott McLaughlin has already well and truly stamped his dominance on the 2019 Supercars season and edged himself closer to the championship trophy after taking his 12th race win of the year in Darwin. The defending series champion became the first driver in the history of the Darwin round to take out the Triple Crown thanks to a straightforward clean sweep of the weekend. As with most of his appearances this year, everything was as simple as qualifying on pole with a healthy margin, retaining the lead on lap one and then disappearing off into the distance in the clinical manner only Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup had mastered. Though there have been questions over just how much of an advantage McLaughlin is getting thanks to the new Mustang which has been designed to the letter of the law, no one can deny that he is in the form of his life as he is now over a full round clear of second placed Fabian Coulthard in the points table.
- David Reynolds is yet again showing why he’s regarded as one of the strongest performers in the category after coming home as the best of the rest at Hidden Valley. The 2017 Bathurst 1000 champion was the fastest of the Holden runners all weekend, dragging his Erebus Motorsport Commodore up onto the podium in both races with a third and second placing on Saturday and Sunday respectively.. Surprisingly, he now sits third in the championship standings, only behind the all-conquering DJR Team Penske Mustangs, such has been Reynolds’ strength to collect points this year when some of his rivals fall by the wayside. After jumping Tickford Racing in the team’s standings, it’s possible that Reynolds can lead Erebus to pass Triple Eight on the championship ladder; pipping the factory Holden team will certainly look good coming into the back end of the season.
- Chaz Mostert muted all the noise around him to produce a solid weekend in the Top End, notching up a podium finish and just missing out on a top five result in the two races. Though qualifying has often been a strong suit for the Tickford Racing man, sixth on the grid on Saturday didn’t set the world on fire but an early stop for tyres, giving him the undercut, moved him up the order into second. Proving himself as a driver who is learning at every race, the 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner is developing as a mature driver. Though sixth at the end of Sunday’s 200km race wasn’t as spectacular as he would have hoped for, his form over the round showed why he’s regarded as one of the young stars of the category. With his contract at the Melbourne based squad ending at the conclusion of this season, it’s not known if Gold Coast based Mostert will take a seat at DJR Team Penske (who he drove with and won a race with on loan in 2013) or expand his ventures with BMW Motorsport overseas which has already seen him compete in GT championships globally.
- Brad Jones Racing certainly had their work cut out for them on Sunday when they had two of their four cars go off only a few minutes into qualifying. Off the back of a hard Saturday where none of their drivers recorded a top ten finish and Tim Slade ended up in the fence, the team had more repairs to undertake before Sunday’s race after Nick Percat grabbed both pedals and went head-on into a tyre wall. To make matters worse, Macaulay Jones arrived at the scene of Percat’s accident moments later, going into the wall rear first, giving the BJR crew work to do at two ends of their two cars. Though Percat fought his way up ten places to 15th at the end of the 200km race, it wasn’t without issue as he tried to make a three-wide move work into Turn 4, resulting in the Nissan’s of Simona De Silvestro and Garry Jacobson making contact, the latter falling off the road. Though the opening part of the season was strong for the Albury team, they’ve had a slump of late and will be looking to bounce back out of it as they fight for a top five spot in the team’s championship.
- Triple Eight isn’t accustomed to running in the middle of the field and it shows as poor results breed poor results for Supercars’ most successful team. The Holden factory outfit has had no answer to the pace of rivals DJR Team Penske this year and although they should have benefited from the aforementioned aero changes to its Commodores, they were outclassed by their competitors in Darwin. A general lack of qualifying pace hampered Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen who started eighth and twelfth on the grid for races one and two respectively, fighting their way up to fifth and eighth. Sunday saw neither driver make the Top Ten Shootout, a rarity for a squad which has often been at the front of the pack and leading by example. With better setup cars for the races, Whincup again finished fifth after starting eleventh as van Gisbergen salvaged a top ten result, even though he began the race in a lowly 16th place. Though it’s nearly a foregone conclusion that they’ll lose the team’s championship this year, Triple Eight has to be wary of Erebus and Tickford mounting a challenge to push the Holden factory team further back in the pit garages next year.
- Kelly Racing may have been fired up at a distinct lack of parity changes in their favour this year but the basic lack of speed and racecraft can’t be blamed on the sport’s organisers. From Rick Kelly giving Tim Slade a serve in race one to the Jacobson – De Silvestro – Percat incident on Sunday (to which no penalty was issued), it’s a busy old time in the Nissan repair shop. Yet again, their saving grace came in the form of Andre Heimgartner, again asserting himself as an overlooked driver in the championship though a P11 result on Sunday is never really going to be remembered. It’s an unclear time for the team from Clayton as they continue to race without factory funding in a car which has been on the back foot since its inception and all of their drivers will be coming to the realisation they may be fighting for a seat in the sport as the possibility of a two car team becomes more of a reality with each passing round.
Let us know if you agree with our thoughts and who you’d put as your winners and losers as we look forward to the next round of the championship. Returning to Townsville, this year’s trip to tropical Queensland will be special for the Supercars teams as they visit the town which was hit by horrific flooding earlier this year.
Image via Supercars