I mentioned in my preview that if anyone was going to challenge Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske last weekend at Queensland Raceway it was going to be Chaz Mostert. From second to first on Saturday and Sunday, Mostert enjoyed his best weekend of the year so far and is now just 351 points off the top of the championship table in a car that for most of the year has been a little bit off the pace of the top two. Mostert’s drive on Sunday was one of the highlights of the weekend for me, and I’ve discussed four other big talking points from the Ipswich weekend below.
Much Improved From Lowndes
Craig Lowndes had his best weekend since Tasmania. The TeamVortex Holden finished 5th and 6th on Saturday and Sunday and put in an impressive qualifying performance on Saturday to take 2nd on the grid, he was unfortunate to just be pipped by McLaughlin for pole. It represented a welcome upturn in form for the Supercars statesman who this year has struggled on occasion to keep the pace with Whincup and Van Gisbergen. With the enduros coming up, could Lowndes be hitting form just at the right time to take a crack at his seventh Bathurst crown? It’s probably too early to say, but it was nice to see Lowndes up at the sharp end once again.
Consolidation of this new pace at Eastern Creek will be important for Lowndes heading into the Enduros, where he has traditionally performed extremely well.
Coulthard Outshone By McLaughlin
On a weekend where he celebrated his birthday, Fabian Coulthard was outshone in all departments by his teammate at QR. The form man at the start of the season, Coulthard’s last five finishes read 4, 10, 21, 6, 5 compared McLaughlin’s 1, 1, 2, 1, 2. By no means was Coulthard’s weekend at Queensland Raceway disappointing, but when you compare it to his McLaughlin’s the world underwhelming springs to mind. Scotty really has the bit between his teeth now after a few inconsistent rounds where he was getting used to a new team and car, and it feels like Coulthard really needs to have a weekend where he outscores McLaughlin before the enduros start, just to build up momentum for those crucial three rounds in September and October.
Coulthard finished 6th and 5th on Saturday and Sunday, but still sits third in the championship table 233 points behind McLaughlin.
Much, Much Better From Brad Jones Racing
BJR were another team I’d picked out before the Ipswich weekend as potential big scorers, and they needed to be. In my last post I touched upon the fact that the team had failed to hit the heights of 2016 but both Slade and Percat showed much-improved form last weekend with Slade 4th and 7th, and Percat 7th and 24th. Percat was on course for another 7th place finish on Sunday before an unfortunate puncture dropped him to the rear of the field. Slade and Percat now sit 11th and 15th in the table, but with work left to do to reach their potential this year.
Mostert Very Much Top Dog At Prodrive
There can be no doubting who has taken the mantle of top dog over at PRA this year, and that man is Chaz Mostert. The #55 Falcon has been PRA’s standout performer in a season where they have come up just short in the battle against the might of Triple Eight and DJR Team Penske. Mostert’s nerve under intense pressure from McLaughlin in the closing stages of Sunday’s race was a hallmark of a champion in waiting, and who knows, he may already have been a champion if it wasn’t for his huge accident at Bathurst in 2015. After the promise of Townsville, I’m sure even Frosty thought his season had turned a corner, but low-key drives to 9th and 10th did nothing to improve the mood in the Bottle O’ camp.
PRA continue to have three cars in the championship’s top ten with Mostert in 5th, Frosty 6th and Waters in 10th, but in reality, it looks like only one of their cars has (very) outside chance of fighting for the title this year. DJR Team Penske’s evolution into a Supercars powerhouse has de-throned PRA as the top Ford team, and Tim Edwards’ squad has a mighty amount of work to do to capture that crown back.