With weather conditions leading to the race cancellation on Sunday, the 2018 Gold Coast 600 didn’t exactly provide us with all the championship twists, dramas and permutations we were expecting, but nevertheless, it was intriguing day and a half of racing. It’s nice to see one of my pre-race predictions come true, and it was a welcome return to the top step of the podium for Mostert/Moffat and Tickford who prevailed on Saturday and came close to pole on Sunday. With just two rounds left to go in the 2018 season, and McLaughlin the surprise benefactor from the Enduro season there’s so much to play for in Auckland and Newcastle and the title is too close to call. Post the rains at Surfers Paradise on Sunday, I’ve penned my thoughts on the weekend’s action in my Gold Coast 600 Weekend Wrap.
Tickford At The Top
I thought before the weekend started that the Gold Coast would represent Tickford’s best shot at winning a race for the remainder of the year. The team and car have consistently been strong on the streets of Surfers Paradise, and Mostert/Moffat bought the car home on Saturday after starting the race from 5th on the grid. The pair were fast all weekend and qualified 2nd on Sunday before rain halted play.
I’ve been really impressed with Moffat as a co-driver this year. 10th at Sandown, 4th at Bathurst and now 1st on the Gold Coast prove that the ex-Nissan works driver was a solid choice to partner Mostert in 2018 and if he doesn’t secure a full-time drive I’m sure he’s done more than enough for another Enduro season in the car in 2019. Mostert sits 6th in the table with four races to go, too far back to challenge any of the frontrunners, but another podium before the year is out would be a welcome bonus.
It was a good weekend all round for Tickford with Winterbottom/Canto coming home in 7th, and Waters/Russell following in 8th. I think the rest of the season will be more difficult for the team as they look to sign off in style before the Mustang’s arrival next year.
Straight Fight For The Title
If we didn’t know it before the Enduros we certainly do now. This year’s championship will be fought out between McLaughlin/DJR Team Penske and Van Gisbergen/Triple Eight (T8). The grid’s two powerhouse teams since the start of 2017, the pair have been miles ahead of the competition this season and it’s going to be an enthralling battle over the final four races of the season. The Fords were strong at the Gold Coast, but McLaughlin/Premat were unable to convert pole position on Saturday into a podium in the race and came home 5th. Nevertheless, a pit lane penalty for Van Gisbergen/Bamber saw them finish in 10th, and they conceded points to their title rivals.
McLaughlin holds a slender 14-point lead over Van Gisbergen as the championship heads to their homeland of New Zealand for the Auckland SuperSprint. With both their teammates now consigned to playing supporting roles, the form of Coulthard, Whincup and Lowndes will be as important as ever. Coulthard showed signs of a return to form last weekend and his support will be vital to McLaughlin as DJR Team Penske are outnumbered at the head of the field. Both Whincup and Lowndes know what it takes to close out a championship, and are more than capable of taking points off McLaughlin.
Bittersweet For Erebus
It’s crazy to think about how things change. This time two years ago an Enduro results card of 5th, 13th with a pole at Bathurst and 4th would have been an incredible feat for Erebus. But it’s a mark of how far the team have come when you think of them as having under-achieved in the 2018 Enduros. Reynolds/Youlden qualified 3rd on Saturday and finished in 4th, before qualifying on pole position on Sunday before the race was called off. The pair finished the Enduro Cup in 7th, and Reynolds remains 5th in the championship table. The team have had a fantastic 2018, although that Bathurst loss is sure to haunt everyone at Erebus for a few months yet.
After finishing 24th and 13th at Pukekohe in 2017, Reynolds will be targeting race wins, with podiums as the minimum when the series returns to New Zealand. With the championship out of reach, there’s nothing left but pride to play for from 3rd downwards. However, with Whincup and Lowndes locked in a supporting role for SVG, Reynolds could be a real threat for the last few races. I expect nothing less than maximum attack from Erebus for the rest of 2018, and the Enduros showed just how far the team have come in such a short space of time.
Courtney and Perkins Back On The Podium
It was 2015 when Courtney and Perkins finished on the podium at the Gold Coast winning race two in an HRT Commodore, and the pair managed to bag a trophy again on Saturday afternoon. The Walkinshaw cars have always been good on street circuits, and Saturday showed once again that if the cards are played right the team can be a threat. Pye and Courtney qualified 5th and 6th in Sunday’s top ten shootout, and I think we saw the results of the slow progress the team is making.
Following a great Enduro Cup for Pye/Luff, Pye sits 9th in the championship table, six places ahead of Courtney who sits 15th. For the second year in a row, Pye is outperforming his more experienced teammate by a significant margin and I’m fascinated to see WAU’s lineup next year. Pye has done more than enough to stay with the team, and time and time again he’s proved his worth under difficult circumstances. With Courtney, I’m not so sure. 2018 marks his eighth year with the team, and after strong starts to the season in both the last two years results have tailed off as the season progresses. You don’t win the title without having immense talent, and I’d be fascinated to see how Courtney would fare in a more competitive car.
What were your thoughts on the Gold Coast weekend? Who impressed and who didn’t? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!