The Debrief: Triple Crowns and Triple Eight headaches

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 21/06/2019
  • By Mitchell Adam

Finally, after 13 years, Darwin's Triple Crown has been won.

Scott McLaughlin broke the drought last weekend at Hidden Valley, adding another perfect haul of 300 points to his title defence.

While McLaughlin was the dominant force, he wasn't the only talking point in the top end.

Another McLaughlin accolade

Given his red-hot form, McLaughlin looked the driver most-likely to win Darwin's Triple Crown since it was introduced in 2006.

During the three-race format days it was awarded for a clean sweep, but now represents winning both races and taking ARMOR ALL Pole in Sunday's Top 10 Shootout.

McLaughlin claimed both poles and victories in Darwin, moving to 11 and 12 on those respective tallies after 16 races.

He got through a pair of tense first corners each day to win by seven seconds on Saturday and 14 on Sunday, never really troubled.

The biggest threat to the Triple Crown came via team-mate Fabian Coulthard and changing track conditions in Sunday's Shootout.

Coulthard was second out, and his benchmark still stood until last man McLaughlin got the job done by a scant 0.0153 seconds.

The Shell V-Power Racing pair will head to Townsville with McLaughlin more than an event clear in the standings, 319 points ahead of Coulthard.

Consistently inconsistent

In 2018, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team struggled for consistent one-lap pace through the first half of the season with its then-new ZB Commodore.

This year, it's the switch back to linear springs the factory Holdens are fighting.

Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup are fifth and sixth in the points, with the former's victory at Symmons Plains their only of the season to date.

Hidden Valley marked a clear turning point 12 months ago, but this time around it had to settle for a pair of fifths for Whincup and an eighth and 10th for van Gisbergen.

Whincup has extracted the most from the package since his Phillip Island nadir, but still couldn't qualify better than eighth and 11th in Darwin.

Finding and repairing a chassis crack helped his Sunday form, Whincup's result particularly impressive given he fell to 24th on the first lap.

Van Gisbergen tried Whincup's set-up but couldn't make it work and started 12th and 13th.

Team manager Mark Dutton says qualifying inconsistency is a 'fact of life' given its rate of development, but they must be eyeing a response in Townsville next month.

Reynolds and Erebus best of the rest

While Triple Eight struggles, compared to its own lofty standards at least, Penrite Racing has assumed the mantle of the best Holden team.

David Reynolds joined McLaughlin on the Darwin podium each day, finishing third and second, and now has three podiums from the last four races.

He has risen to third in the championship, only behind the Shell Mustangs, and says hard work has been the key.

After a quiet start to the season adjusting to 2019's technical changes, the Erebus Holdens have been edging closer to the front.

That was underlined by another strong weekend for second-year driver Anton De Pasquale.

He qualified fourth and sixth and would have been in the mix for a Saturday podium if not for a pitstop problem on the right-front corner.

De Pasquale had to settle for 11th after that slow stop, then banked eighth on Sunday to sit just 48 points out of the championship top 10.

BJR's unwanted practice

The crew at Brad Jones Racing has probably had more practice repairing and rebuilding Supercars than other teams in pitlane in recent years.

They would have preferred that expertise went unused at Hidden Valley, but it was called into action on three Commodores within a 24-hour period.

It started on Saturday afternoon, when contact from Rick Kelly on lap two fired Tim Slade into the fence.

Slade was back in action on Sunday after repair efforts that ran to midnight, but there was more to come.

Within minutes of Supercars taking to the track, Nick Percat and then Macauley Jones crashed at Turn 11 in ARMOR ALL Qualifying.

Percat initially doubted his Holden would be right to race, but sure enough both drivers were on the grid less than four hours later.

It was a lean run for the team on results, 13th for Percat on Saturday its best finish.

Mostert happy in the spotlight

Out-of-contract Tickford Racing star Chaz Mostert looms as the biggest piece of the silly season puzzle.

And he seems comfortable with the attention that brings, as he weighs up options at home and far away.

Firstly, full marks to Mostert for being as open as he has been on the whole thing, when many drivers or teams would be a closed-shop.

On Thursday's Supercars Trackside, Mostert ducked and weaved a couple of direct questions but readily admitted he's 'in a pickle' deciding what he does.

It looks like a move to DJR Team Penske is off the table, for 2020 at least, but he still has a big call to make.

Staying for another season at Tickford, or making a big-money move to Walkinshaw Andretti United are thought to be his leading options.

Mostert joked the attention was good for sponsors including Supercheap Auto – that mention is a case in point – and crucially it isn't affecting his form on-track.

He finished second on Saturday and sixth on Sunday to move into fourth in the championship.

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