Championship contenders slug it out in the ring

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 22/08/2014
  • By V8 Supercars

The first blows were laid in Sydney yesterday as a number of V8 Supercars drivers 'took it outside' the cars and tried their hands at Box'Tag.

Championship contenders, Ford and Holden rivals Mark Winterbottom and James Courtney slogged it out first, representing blue and red in the ring as Chaz Mostert, Scott McLaughlin and Lee Holdsworth watched on.

With mouth guards in and head protection on, they may have been tentative when the first round began - but once the punches started flying, the competitive nature of the drivers quickly kicked in and the contest intensified.

A form of boxing designed for fitness and fun, Box'Tag only accepts light contact and nothing head high. Both competitors wear a specially developed vest that covers the torso and shoulders, and senses a punch, which scores a point. Each contest is over three one to two minute rounds.

Courtney fired first and jumped into the lead with a succession of scoring shots.

Winterbottom found his form after the first round but it was too late to catch his Holden Racing Team foe, who had his game face on and glared back at the Ford Pepsi Max Crew driver.

An emphatic win in the red corner saw the Holden man - who sits fourth in the Championship points standings - lead Winterbottom 81 to 36.

That winning streak is something he'd like to continue this weekend at the Sydney Motorsport Park 400, after winning the last Championship race at Queensland Raceway.

"It's good, one up!" Courtney said.

"It was good fun - a good little 'Westie' battle between the boys from Sydney's west, and it's good to be up with the first win of the weekend against my old mate Mark. It was tempting to drop one on his chin, that's for sure!" Courtney laughed.

Winterbottom, however, was not phased at losing the battle, as long as he can win the war this weekend - and come December.

"It's good fun to come here and do this, have a bit of a play, but it'd be good to get the result on track, that's the priority," Winterbottom told v8supercars.com.au.

"It would've been nice to explode a bit there and give him a couple, but you have to be quite reserved with what you do - it's probably the same as on the track."

After losing the points lead to Jamie Whincup after the last event, 'Frosty' said he wasn't worried about Courtney sneaking up on him in the title fight, though the last race winner is in fourth and just 177 points behind Frosty.

"Courtney won the last race, but he didn't win the round - people are forgetting that Lowndes scored the most points at Willowbank.

"Courtney on Saturday, we had him measured comfortably, and on Sunday he went good.

"He probably thinks he's going to win it, but everyone in the top six can win it.

"I'm not focused on him - they're inconsistent, when they get it right they're very quick. But Triple Eight and Lowndes proved they are still going to be very good."

Following the battle of the Championship heavyweights in the ring was the clash of the young guns, with Volvo's Scott McLaughlin and Ford's Chaz Mostert going head to head.

While the two were childhood friends they're now fully-fledged competitors on-track, and their Box'Tag encounter was intense, though McLaughlin came out on top, 122-106.

"We're saving our energy for the weekend!" Mostert said.

"I think it's something out of our comfort zone and it's so explosive, boxers throw a punch so quick - it's something us drivers aren't quite used to, we're used to draining out muscles slowly over a race. I didn't think I'd like it that much, but it's something I might look at for the future."

With Holdsworth yet to have a go and represent his Erebus team, McLaughlin paid double duty - and while he was clearly knackered from his first go, took on his good mate for the final match-up.

Their battle was the toughest of all, with a stray shot from Holdsworth landing square on McLaughlin's cheek, as his mouth guard went flying.

It was two points the difference heading into the third round but Holdsworth was victorious, 96-91.

"We all came here saying it was just a bit of fun, but we all knew once we put that helmet on it was just like in the race car, you get the red mist and go as hard as you can, you want to win always," Holdsworth said.

While acknowledging it was so very different, all drivers drew parallels between Box'Tag and racing V8 Supercars - fitness, focus and quick improvement were all key parts, as well as taking and applying advice from the 'trainer' ("like my engineer" McLaughlin said) to trump their opponent.

"It brought me back to a lot to do with racing even though we were out there fighting," McLaughlin said.

"You've got to take the hard punch - like Lee gave me a punch in the head at one stage! But you've got to get up, get on with it, put the bad ones behind you, and it was awesome fun."

See the V8 Supercars in action over six sessions tomorrow at theSydney Motorsport Park 400.

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