With the Pirtek Enduro Cup up for grabs, the Gold Coast 600 provided entertainment aplenty, but who stood out and who needs to step up..?
The popular holiday destination of Surfers Paradise yet again produced another extraordinary weekend of action with the two 300km Gold Coast 600 Supercars races being contested in contrasting conditions. While the classic adage was proven yet again in Saturday’s opener – if you want to create great racing, just add water – Sunday’s action saw the Championship battle close right up with just 27 points now separating the top three drivers going in to the final two rounds.
- Chaz Mostert and Steve Owen proved themselves as being quick and consistent, not only on the Gold Coast but over the entire endurance campaign. With a total of 660 points, the Prodrive duo won their first Pirtek Enduro Cup after being the best pairing across the four races, despite the heartbreak of letting a win slip away at Bathurst. Mostert qualified on pole for Saturday’s wet race and although drama occurred when Owen was spun by Paul Dumbrell in his stint, Mostert’s wet weather capabilities put the #55 entry on the top step of the podium. A solid points haul on Sunday was enough to secure them the title of this year’s enduro champions – the first for a Ford team since its introduction in 2013 – as well as dragging Mostert right back in to championship contention.
- Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell may not have won a race on the weekend but their ability to get in to a high position and collect a swag of points sent out a strong warning to Whincup’s championship rivals. Dumbrell’s stint in Saturday’s rain soaked event was nearly faultless minus locking up and spinning Owen, which led to a 15 second penalty. From there, Whincup was in damage limitation, doing well to finish sixth. Sunday was a different affair, with the #88 returning to its leading ways. Staying out front for a decent portion of the race until they were undercut by the #17 car in the pit stops, the pair settled for second. The weekend sees Whincup lead the championship heading in to Pukekohe, with a seventh title in his sights.
- Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat may have been seriously dejected after Saturday’s running but there was nothing but elation after Sunday’s race. The rain wasn’t good for them in the weekend’s opening race with Premat dropping down the order after a spin at the back point of the circuit, leaving McLaughlin to put in a recovery drive for 12th. Sunday proved much better. Despite qualifying outside of the top ten, Premat put in a stellar drive to drag the car up in to the top five before handing over to McLaughlin. The Kiwi showed incredible pace and put it to great use when he was put on a strategy to undercut the Triple Eight cars ahead, assuming the race lead after the pit stops. From there, it was all about conserving fuel, going on to win despite the car running on the smell of an oily rag. Although he lost points to Whincup over the Gold Coast 600 weekend, he is now closer to the championship lead than at the beginning of the round.
An honourable mention must go to: Ford for breaking Holden’s stranglehold on the Supercars manufacturers’ championship, claiming the title for the first time since 2010.
- While it seems a disservice to put this pair into here,Tim Slade and Andre Heimgartner nearly had a fairytale weekend together, but a bit of rotten luck and being involved in the cross-fire has left them pondering what might have been. A strong qualifying session on Saturday by Slade meant Heimgartner started the wet race from the top ten. Quickly making his way past more experienced drivers the ‘Super-sub’ who stepped in to replace the injured Ash Walsh soon took the race lead. From there, he started to gap the field, filing another application to rejoin the main game in a full time role. Unfortunately, as he handed the car over to Slade, a poorly positioned airjack went in to a pothole on the pit lane, losing the team valuable time in changing the wheel. Slade managed third but the pair could have won on pace alone. Sunday didn’t get much better. Tagged by Dean Fiore in the opening laps, the car had to pit for repairs leaving the pair a few laps down. For someone who was called in on short notice for Bathurst, Heimgartner has surely shown why he once drove for one of the sport’s biggest teams.
- Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto came in to the Gold Coast 600 round off the back of a podium at Bathurst but couldn’t take a trick, the full time driver losing the championship lead in the process. Not able to qualify in the top ten for both races didn’t help Coulthard’s cause, nor did accidental contact with Nick Percat during Saturday’s race which saw the #12 cop a 15 second penalty, leaving them to finish 19th. Sunday was neither here nor there, a consistent but uninspiring race meant they finished behind all the other championship contenders. Going in to his home race at Pukekohe, Coulthard sits 17 points behind Whincup in the championship lead though his lack of race pace compared to the Triple Eight driver and his team mate surely puts him at the longest odds out of the trio to win.
- Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport. Need I say more? Their lack of results are getting to the point where I’m almost sad for them. A team which consistently finishes last or not at all must be feeling the death knocks in terms of their longevity in the Supercars main game. A complete lack of pace in the #3 car and lack of experience in the #62 on Saturday meant the cars didn’t finish and finished last of the runners respectively. Sunday saw the #3 car back in the pits soon after the race start due to making contact with James Golding. The #62, driven by Alex Davison, was unfortunate to be caught up in an incident between Richard Muscat and David Russell, forcing the team to make repairs. Rullo rejoined the race but pulled up at the escape road on the exit of turn three for an unknown reason.
An announcement is expected to be made in Newcastle regarding the team’s future with one of their RECs being sold to Prodrive and the other remaining at LDM which is expected to be rebranded with a larger influence from current sponsor Phil Munday.
A quick two week turnaround will see the Supercars race in the only non-Australian race of the year, returning again to Pukekohe in New Zealand for the ITM Auckland SuperSprint. A fast, flowing track, it’s expected to provide a lot of high-speed action as the penultimate round of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.