He’s one of 10 race winners this year following his Darwin triumph, but Michael Caruso stands alone in terms of one important statistic – he’s now scored more points than any other driver at two events this year.
In days gone by that means Caruso would have twice stood atop the podium for that achievement, as well as for winning Race 12 on Saturday in Darwin.
The Nismo Nissan Altima driver led the championship after top-scoring at the chaotic rain-drenched Clipsal 500 Sunday and was back on top of the points pile after his win on Saturday at the CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown and sixth on Sunday.
That made his the most consistent driver of the weekend, an achievement four other drivers have claimed in the six events conducted so far this year – Will Davison (Tasmania), Scott McLaughlin (Phillip Island), Craig Lowndes (Perth) and Tim Slade (Winton).
It’s a stat Caruso is proud of, believing it proves he and the Nissan Motorsport team have now extracted the speed and the consistency from the Altima to run competitively wherever the Virgin Australia Supercar Championship sets up.
“The biggest thing for me to come out of the (Darwin) weekend wasn’t just the win on Saturday and starting on the front row on Sunday but to finish the weekend in ‘old terms’ the winner of the round effectively and be the only car to do that twice this year,” Caruso told supercars.com.au.
“I think this year where I am at and where the car is at is working really well … and when you are talking how close the racing actually is and be able to achieve something like that means we are in a good spot at the moment.”
The strong Darwin form has boosted the 33-year old back to seventh in the championship, 240 points behind leader Jamie Whincup. It’s a promising fightback after he drifted as far back as 10th through Perth and Winton.
“We have had a couple of mechanical problems that have made our consistency not look flash on paper, but I think we have always been consistently there and in the top 10, so I am happy with that side of it,” Caruso said.
“I think the big, big part of the overall situation is taking the racing one weekend at a time and that approach I feel has been helping my driving this year which is good.
“It’s such a long season and such a long year that to be looking forward to the end result at this stage is pointless, so I am just focussing on keeping that momentum going and keeping my guys at the same level as I am so we can try and achieve something special together.”
As has been reported many times, the improvement in the Altima has come about after years of hard effort, much of it centred on development of the Nissan VK56DE’s engine cylinder head by the Kelly family owned team.
Caruso has been at the team throughout the program, alongside Rick and Todd Kelly. Darwin was the second win for the Altima, after James Moffat won at Winton in 2013.
It was also Caruso’s first win since breaking through to score for Garry Rogers Motorsport in Darwin all the way back in 2009. He said he never doubted that he would win again.
“There have been a few wins that have gotten away from us in different circumstances that seemed to be in the bag a few times in between and I have been on the podium a fair few times between the two wins which has been pretty good,” he said.
“Everybody has their own different types of self belief but most of the time it seems to be circumstances – whether it be equipment or incidents – in the race that determine how you view your result.
“You can’t drive a racing car at the absolute limit in the best touring car category on the planet with some of the best drivers on the planet and be at the front of the field without some confidence.
“In all sports that’s very relatable. I think anyone at the top of their sport in any sport has the talent to do it and that belief.”