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Five things we learned at the Darwin Triple Crown

Supercars
6d
After what could prove a title-defining weekend at Hidden Valley Raceway, here's what Supercars.com learned in Darwin
4 mins by James Pavey
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Just as Will Brown showed glimpses of running away with the 2024 title, Broc Feeney came to play at the betr Darwin Triple Crown.

Six drivers have won races, six drivers have claimed poles, and 11 drivers have stood on the podium. However, Triple Eight has remained the benchmark, and has put breathing space on its rivals after five rounds.

Still, there's plenty to play for, and Townsville always throws up a surprise. Brown and Feeney may be sitting pretty, but some teams didn't show their hand in Darwin, and others threw their hand in the ring.

Feeney bounces back, but Brown is still rock-solid

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After being beaten in Taupō and putting a nondescript showing in Perth, Feeney was on a mission in Darwin to prove he was a championship contender. He did just that, controlling both races and securing consecutive victories for the first time in his career. Critically, Feeney slashed Brown's lead from 136 to 108 points. If Feeney puts nearly 30 points on Brown per round, they will be neck-and-neck by the time they get to Bathurst. Of course, that's in a perfect world for Feeney, but Brown has been nothing short of brilliant with 11 podiums in 12 starts.

WAU hoping Super Soft woes a one-off

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Chaz Mostert breathed new life into his title hopes with a supreme Perth, but the question remained regarding Walkinshaw Andretti United's Super Soft tyre weakness. Sadly for the Ford team, neither car qualified better than 20th, and while Mostert powered from 22nd to fifth in the opener, the weekend did serious damage on the leaderboard. From 175 points down after Perth, Mostert is now 279 points adrift.

Golding shows why he belongs

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James Golding has been on a heck of a journey in Supercars since his debut race ended in a shocking lap 1 crash at Sandown as a co-driver in 2016. Since then, he had and lost a full-time drive with Garry Rogers Motorsport, went unrewarded as a Team 18 co-driver, and managed to secure a mid-season lifeline with PremiAir Racing in 2022. In a little under 18 months, Golding has continued to make quiet gains. In Darwin, he made the loudest noise of all, first claiming provisional pole before topping the Shootout. Critically, a second run-in with Feeney this season left Golding dropping fighting words in the media over the clash, proving he really wants results.

Erebus shows progress amid rollercoaster

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Make no mistake, it has been a tough title defence for Erebus Motorsport. The team ended 2023 on top of the world, but after Saturday in Darwin, it was 10th in the teams' standings and without a trophy in 11 starts. Led on the ground by first-year Team Principal Brad Tremain, Erebus lifted itself off the canvas and got it together to deliver a front row start and podium for Brodie Kostecki, who for the first time this season, made an impression on Triple Eight. Look no further than his Shootout antics on Will Brown. As Tremain said in the press conference, it was a result the team sorely needed. Could it be the catalyst for things to come?

Formats exposing battle for 'best of the rest'

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Triple Eight has been the benchmark this season, claiming a podium in all bar one race through five rounds, and winning eight of 12 races. Behind Brown and Feeney, Mostert has offered the biggest challenge, but is now 279 points down. From there, a crazy logjam has 12 drivers from eight teams covered by just 138 points.

Week to week, the order has changed. After Taupō, Richie Stanaway was fourth. He's now 10th. Cam Waters has gone from 15th to fourth, and after a tough Perth, is back to sixth. Then, there's Nick Percat, who struggled through Taupō and Perth, but is now back to fourth. Golding was 12th after Perth, and is now fifth. Mark Winterbottom claimed a Saturday podium, but was 19th on Sunday.

Caught up yet? We haven't either, but in the space of four rounds, drivers have grappled with two different tyre compounds, knockout qualifying, Shootouts, long practice sessions, short practice sessions, sprint races and refuelling races. So far, only Triple Eight have managed to be consistent. Who will fire the next shot in Townsville, where the format is changing again?

Honourable mention

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The results sheet mightn't show it, but Cooper Murray looked as though he belonged in the main game, with the young Victorian nailing a Shootout berth on his second attempt, and setting the fastest lap in his very first race. The last time that happened? Greg Murphy, back in 1997, four years before Murray was born! Had he not been taken out in the first-lap clash on Sunday, Murray could have raced to a top 10, too, but it wasn't to be. However, being in that position to begin with proved he is no slouch.

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