Scott McLaughlin’s supreme run of victories had to end eventually, and it was in race eight of the season at Symmons Plains that the defending champion was beaten on track for the first time in 2019. A comfortable race victory on Saturday was followed up by a more difficult Sunday where McLaughlin, despite finishing in 4th, didn’t look like he had the pace to challenge for victory. Nevertheless, if 4th is what you get on an off day, it says something about the strength of McLaughlin this year! I’ve given my thoughts on some of the biggest talking points from the 2019 Tasmania SuperSprint.
SVG The Man For Holden
It took eight races to get there, but Shane Van Gisbergen was the man to finally open his, Triple Eight’s and Holden’s win account for 2019 with victory in race eight on Sunday afternoon. SVG was the strongest Holden on Saturday finishing 3rd behind the DJR Team Penske Mustangs and built on that strong performance with pole position and a race win on Sunday. Two good results lift him to 4th from 11th in the standings, just six points behind teammate Whincup. It just shows how much the title race can change in one weekend.
The greasy conditions which hung around Symmons Plains on Sunday were perfect for SVG, and exactly the type of conditions he excels in. Even before the start of the race with the drizzle falling you had a feeling that it would be his to lose. Parity was still a huge talking point in the post-race-interviews, and there will be some who feel SVG’s victory wasn’t fully deserved. However, it was a great performance all weekend for the Kiwi and another weekend like this will lift him right back into championship contention. Phillip Island up next will be tough for Triple Eight, and it was important for the team to win this weekend.
IRWIN Racing En-Route To The Top
Pole position and 4th on Saturday and a 6th on Sunday marked a brilliant weekend for IRWIN Racing and Mark Winterbottom. It’s great to see Frosty back up challenging at the front of the grid again, and he looks like a rejuvenated driver in 2019. Frosty looked like the strongest Holden on Saturday and just missed out on scoring IRWIN Racing’s maiden podium finish after being reeled in by SVG in the closing laps of the race. Sunday bought new challenges as Triple Eight and Erebus made gains but Frosty still managed to come home in 6th after running well early in the race.
I’m excited to see what Winterbottom can do this year with the team. They currently look to be exceeding everyone’s expectations including their own, and although it was cruel to just miss out on Saturday’s podium, I feel that it’s only a matter of time before one comes their way. Like their fellow Holden runners, Phillip Island will provide different challenges for the team but they’re moving in the right direction, and it’ll be fascinating to see how far they can go.
Holden Improvements Or Mustangs Slowed?
There’s no getting away from the parity debate. With numerous Mustang drivers drawing attention to it in interviews, and the sudden improvement in pace from the likes of Erebus and Walkinshaw there will be plenty who feel that the Commodore’s improved showing this weekend was more down to the centre of gravity changes in the Mustang than anything else. However, parity aside, Tasmania was a good weekend for the Holden teams.
Both Erebus and Walkinshaw ran well with Reynolds finishing 6th and 3rd to move to 5th in the championship standings. Erebus teammate Anton de Pasquale also ran well all weekend with a strong 9th place on Saturday before a gear lever issue late on in Sunday’s race robbed him of a career-best 7th placed finish. Walkinshaw also had a good weekend with both Courtney and Pye running inside the top ten at points during the races. Courtney finished a season-high 5th on Saturday with Pye 8th on Sunday as the team enjoyed their best round yet of 2019.
There will be sighs of relief at both teams after Tasmania as the Mustang’s strong start to the season led to opening rounds at Adelaide and Melbourne that fell below expectations at Erebus and Walkinshaw. Both teams will be keen to use Symmons Plains as a launchpad for a good run into the midseason, and it’s going to be brilliant to watch them take the fight to Triple Eight.
It was a weekend to forget for Tickford Racing in Tasmania. So strong in Adelaide and Melbourne, Symmons Plains was a harsh reality check for Mostert, Waters, Davison and Holdsworth as Holdsworth’s 9th place finish on Sunday represented their best result of the weekend. In fact, 9th was a remarkable result for Holdsworth who had fallen to last in the opening laps of the race and it’s an early indication that he is starting to gel with the Mustang. Mostert, who came into Tasmania as McLaughlin’s closest challenger and my pick for victory this weekend struggled to 10th in both races whilst Waters and Davison had highest finishes of 11th and 14 respectively.
There will be plenty of head-scratching at Tickford before Phillip Island, but one poor weekend in Tasmania doesn’t mean the team have fallen away from the head of the field. I think their poor weekend at Symmons Plains was a one-off, and I’m certainly expecting them to be back in the top five next weekend at a track they went well at in testing. However, Mostert has fallen to 5th in the standings, 177 points off the lead and he will need to claw back that ground quickly to avoid being cut adrift early on.
Standout Performer: Fabian Coulthard who had a trouble-free weekend to rise to 2nd in the standings.
Most Disappointing Moment: Seeing Frosty reeled in so easily by SVG on fresh tyres when he was on course for his maiden IRWIN Racing podium.
What were your thoughts on the Symmons Plains weekend? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!