Home track battle
The war between Supercars powerhouses Shell V-Power Racing and Triple Eight resumes on home ground for the two teams this weekend.
Most notably, it’s the first time that Scott McLaughlin arrives at a circuit with previous experience in his Shell Ford, which is an ominous sign for his opposition.
He may have lost out to Jamie Whincup in Race 14 in Townsville, but McLaughlin is very much the championship’s form man and is in record territory when it comes to qualifying.
McLaughlin is on a streak of 12 straight front-row starts, while nine poles for the season to date is just four shy of the all-time poles in a year record set by Whincup in 2013.
Pressure on for Coulthard
Fabian Coulthard’s shocking run was the biggest talking point from the Watpac Townsville 400 and how he responds this weekend will be fascinating to watch.
As John Bowe pointed out in this week’s mid-season report card, dropping from the lead to 158 points behind in one event is a big test of Coulthard’s resolve.
While evenly matched with team-mate McLaughlin early in the season, the raw speed of the younger driver has put Coulthard in the shade at the year’s halfway point.
Off the front-row for each of the last seven races, Coulthard will want to be a lot closer to his team-mate than the 0.5s deficit seen in both qualifying sessions in Townsville.
The QR King
Poor qualifying performances have meant Craig Lowndes hasn’t even looked like winning a race so far this season.
In fact, his only podium finish of the year to date came in the dramatically shortened Saturday race at Symmons Plains.
But if there’s any sprint event where the 43-year-old can spring a surprise, surely it’s Queensland Raceway.
Lowndes took his last win at Ipswich 12 months ago and has a record 12 victories at the venue, as well as podium finishes in 15 of the last 19 Ipswich races.
After a wobble at Hidden Valley, Prodrive reasserted itself as the best of the rest in Townsville.
The Prodrive FG Xs have been fast at Ipswich over the last two years, giving hope that they can mix it with Shell V-Power and Triple Eight this weekend.
Just as interesting will be which Prodrive entry leads the team’s charge, with Mark Winterbottom having out-gunned Chaz Mostert in Townsville.
Mostert, however, has scored two of his best career wins at Ipswich – his first in the category with DJR in 2013 and a head-to-head defeat of Winterbottom in 2015.
The new-for-2017 SuperSprint wildcard program concludes this weekend with four additional entries on the grid.
MW Motorsport pair Jack Le Brocq and Shae Davies, as well as GRM’s James Golding, are all looking to put valuable lessons from their earlier wildcards into practice.
Todd Hazelwood’s single outing has, however, arguably been the most anticipated due to his form in the Dunlop Super2 Series.
While the strength of the field should not be underestimated, seeing any of these four in the mid-pack during the races should be no surprise.