Rewind: Last year at Winton

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 24/05/2019
  • By Mitchell Adam

The fortunes of Nissan squad Kelly Racing, on- and off-track, dominated proceedings when the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship visited Winton this time last year.

Race week may have started with news Nissan was pulling its factory funding at the end of 2018, but included Rick Kelly claiming a drought-breaking victory.

Nissan had been a major partner in the Altima program that started in 2013, and announced its exit on Tuesday May 15.

Three days later, the team was on-track at Winton, finishing Friday practice a morale-boosting first and second through Michael Caruso and Kelly.

On Saturday afternoon, Kelly pounced on an error by long-time race leader Scott McLaughlin at a late restart to take the lead.

The victory was his first in the Nissan his family's outfit developed, and broke his own drought dating back to November 2011

An emotional Todd Kelly even suggested the result was better than his own Bathurst 1000 triumph in 2005, classing it as a "relief" to repay the team

Fourth and fifth for Kelly and Caruso on Sunday capped a strong weekend, showing Kelly's double podium at Phillip Island was not a flash in the pan.

The Sunday honours went to Fabian Coulthard, ending a dry spell of his own, albeit one that only went back to August 2017. 

Coulthard beat slow-starting Shell V-Power Racing team-mate McLaughlin off the line and never looked back.

McLaughlin started on pole each day, but had to settle for race results of fifth and third.

Shane van Gisbergen went in the other direction for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, turning grid positions of 14th and seventh into third and second.

That came amid a patchy run of qualifying form for Triple Eight with its then-new ZB Commodore. 

Team-mate Jamie Whincup's best result was an eighth on Sunday, slowed on Saturday by a broken front bar, among a number of early-season gremlins. 

One positive for the factory Holdens was the form of two-time Le Mans winner Earl Bamber, ahead of his PIRTEK Enduro Cup role alongside van Gisbergen.

The Kiwi was 10th against the co-drivers in the wet, then eighth in the drying Practice 1 for the regulars, which van Gisbergen classed as "stellar"

Scott Pye claimed the weekend's other place on the podium for Walkinshaw Andretti United, with second on Saturday.

Pye was, though, aggrieved by getting stuck behind Richie Stanaway in the first half of the race, the Tickford rookie effectively a lap down after an early incident.

Stanaway was nonplussed by Pye's criticism, offering to "buy a violin, and play a sad song for him"

On-track, Stanaway followed that up with what was ultimately the best result of his 2018 season, ninth from 10th on the grid on Sunday.

It was a highlight in a dire weekend for Tickford, Cameron Waters suffering axle failures in both races.

Mark Winterbottom was also in something of a war of words, with van Gisbergen after a run-in during Sunday ARMOR ALL Qualifying

There was no love lost, either, between former team-mates James Courtney and Garth Tander after a tangle on Sunday afternoon.

Courtney's weekend nearly looked over before it started, when he fell ill on Friday and missed practice.

He spent Friday night in hospital, but returned to his Commodore on Saturday morning

It was a tough weekend for David Reynolds, who lost ground in the fight for the championship with finishes of 25th and 15th.

Saturday's misery was the result of an early incident, which led to a failure early in Sunday qualifying.

The weekend was also noteworthy for Reynolds as the first time he'd ever been outqualified by an Erebus team-mate.

Rookie Anton De Pasquale sealed ninth versus 17th for Reynolds on Saturday, ending a run that dated back to the start of 2016.

Stay In The Know
Sign up to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Newsletter