Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria plays host to races 13 and 14 of the 2019 Supercars season as the chasing pack looks to topple the supreme DJR Team Penske Mustangs. Two weeks after Fabian Coulthard and Scott Mclaughlin took a win apiece under the lights at Barbagallo in Perth, the Winton SuperSprint marks the start of the middle part of the season, and a period of races where maintaining championship momentum will be crucial.
At this stage of the season at least, the championship is looking like DJR Team Penske’s to lose. However, you can never discount the ability of a team with the calibre of Triple Eight to bounce back over these next six rounds. It’s going to be a fascinating run of races, and I’ve given my thoughts on the biggest talking points ahead of the Winton SuperSprint in my weekend preview.
Can Anyone Stop DJR Team Penske This Year?
With ten race wins from twelve races so far in 2019 it’s safe to say that DJR Team Penske are enjoying a dominant start to the season. Two comfortable race wins last time out in Perth do nothing to dampen predictions that cars #12 and #17 will be the ones to beat at Winton. However one area I will be keeping an eye on is the race start, and how Scott McLaughlin gets away from the line. McLaughlin got away from the line slowly in both races at Barbagallo and whilst on Saturday night McLaughlin had enough pace to reel in Whincup, he wasn’t able to regain the lead from Coulthard on Friday.
Both drivers have shown some great pace at Winton in the past and Coulthard won on Sunday in 2018. I think on speed alone, McLaughlin has the edge but on race pace his advantage over Coulthard isn’t enough to run away from him on track. I get the feeling that if the pair are on the front row, whoever gets out of turn one first will go on to win the race. McLaughlin holds a 142 point advantage over Coulthard going into the weekend and barring any major tragedy for either car I expect the margin to be more or less the same the other side of Sunday.
Heimgartner Looking To Continue His Solid Run
Andre Heimgartner is having a strong season in the Nissan Altima and sits in 15th as the lead Nissan in the championship, 47 points ahead of teammate Rick Kelly. A podium at Phillip Island bought some much-needed silverware to the Kelly Racing trophy cabinet and if it wasn’t for a late race tangle with Scott Pye on Saturday night in Perth, Heimgartner would have had another top ten finish to his name.
Heimgartner finished 16th and 11th last year at Winton, but the form of teammate Kelly at the track in 2018 will give him distant hope of a podium finish. Kelly won on Saturday last year before finishing 4th on Sunday to underline the fact that the Altima does have some degree of pace around Winton Raceway.
I expect Heimgartner to continue improving in 2019, and I think having the stability of a second full year with the same team is doing him the world of good. He finished 17th last season in the standings, this year I would expect him to be far closer to the top ten. Continue to perform the way he has done and he’ll be on the radar of some teams higher up pit lane.
Shane Van Gisbergen Eyeing A Podium Return
It’s been a quiet couple of rounds for Van Gisbergen after winning on Sunday at Symmons Plains back at the start of April. 6th and 7th at Phillip Island was followed up by a pair of 5th places in Perth, and he sits 322 points behind McLaughlin and first of the Holdens. After looking like he had the edge over Whincup in the early part of the season, SVG appeared to be the slower of the pair at Barbagallo and he will be keen to return to the top three this weekend. To be truthful, Triple Eight are too far behind DJR Team Penske right now to be worried about an inter-team battle for championship honours and I’m sure all efforts are focused towards reeling in the Mustangs.
SVG ran well at Winton in 2018, finishing 3rd and 2nd to add to a 5th and 1st in 2017. He knows what it takes to win at the circuit, and I’m backing him to be up there and competitive this weekend. I think it’s going to take a mammoth effort to beat McLaughlin and Coulthard, however, the third podium spot is certainly up for grabs. Top fives and podiums will be the minimum target for Van Gisbergen in Winton, and barring any major catastrophes he should leave the weekend with a solid haul of points and a clearer indication of where Triple Eight stand in terms of pace.
Lee Holdsworth To Continue His Improved Form
Barbagallo was Lee Holdsworth’s best weekend yet in the Ford Mustang as he raced well on both Friday and Saturday to score a pair of 9th place finishes. Out of all the Tickford team, Holdsworth has struggled most with adaptation to, and setup of the Mustang but there were signs in Perth that he was beginning to improve in the car. Holdsworth sits 13th in the standings on 708 points, 103 points behind nearest Tickford rival Cam Waters.
Winton wasn’t kind to Holdsworth last year as he registered 23rd and 21st place finishes but it was the scene of his last Supercars race victory driving for Erebus back in 2014. Whilst he may never topple Chaz Mostert as the fastest driver at Tickford this year, Holdsworth will be keen to target podiums and top fives during the second part of the season. He’s one to watch for me at Winton this weekend and needs a good run to continue the forward momentum he built up in Perth.
What are your thoughts ahead of the Winton weekend? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!