Few intra-team battles in 2022 are as intriguing as the one unfolding at the Shell V-Power Racing Team.
Through nine rounds, Will Davison and Anton De Pasquale are separated by a measly three points.
By some margin, it is the closest intra-team battle of the season.
A simple glance at the head-to-heads proves that; it’s a 13-13 split in qualifying, while Davison leads the race head-to-head 14-12.
De Pasquale’s year-on-year improvement has been enhanced by improved reliability.
Last year, De Pasquale suffered five race retirements, four of them due to engine failures.
Both drivers have finished every race so far, but Davison has closed the gap.
As De Pasquale suffered damage in the Sandown finale, Davison finished second and went ahead for the first time this season.
Davison has 12 podiums to De Pasquale's eight, two wins to one, and eight poles to three.
If not for an incident with Scott Pye (Townsville), poor qualifying (Tailem Bend) and a pit infringement (Sandown), Davison would have beaten De Pasquale in the last six races.
While Shane van Gisbergen has bolted into a 500-point lead, Davison and De Pasquale’s matched performance is keeping Dick Johnson Racing in the teams’ championship hunt.
Conversely, the likes of Tickford Racing and Walkinshaw Andretti United aren’t a teams’ title factor given the disparity between teammates.
Cam Waters is a staggering 644 points better off than James Courtney, with Chaz Mostert 642 points ahead of Nick Percat.
Davison was class of the field at Sandown
Key to DJR’s charge was a turnaround at Sandown, with Davison showing remarkable one-lap and race pace.
Last year, Davison and De Pasquale were only good enough for two top fives between them at Sandown.
Team Principal Ben Croke hailed the turnaround, saying the team is confident heading to New Zealand.
“A big turnaround for us,” Croke said of year-on-year Sandown performance.
“We didn’t really compete with those guys last year.
“To come here, with the work we’ve done, to get here and do well, very proud of the guys.
“We’re very happy with that, and Will was quick. Plenty of positives to take out of it.
"We’ll head to Pukekohe with our heads high and wind in the sails.”
Still, the unflappable van Gisbergen continues to keep Red Bull Ampol Racing at the front.
Van Gisbergen has 22 podiums in 26 starts, and its just three shy of equalling Mark Skaife’s season record of 25.
Separate dramas at The Bend and Sandown have stunted DJR’s overall progress.
DJR dropped 111 points to Triple Eight at The Bend, with the margin blowing out from 10 to 121 points.
Davison and De Pasquale finished first and third on Saturday, and pegged the teams’ margin back to 74 points.
However, a pit-lane penalty for Davison (Race 25) and damage for De Pasquale saw the team drop a potential 98 points in a day.
De Pasquale started strong, and won in Darwin
Heading to New Zealand, Triple Eight leads by 196 points, a margin Davison lamented.
“It was a great weekend for the team, but a costly day,” Davison said of Sunday.
“It was an unfortunate incident that cost him a lot of points in his race.
“It was a real shame in the first race, I started 11th and got all the way back to third.
“Had a cracking start, then had the unfortunate penalty.
“Quite a costly day on the points front, it could have been a lot better.
“We’ll focus on our speed, I’m sure we’ll be taking this battle all the way to the end.”
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Points margins between teammates after nine rounds*
3: Will Davison vs Anton De Pasquale66: Thomas Randle vs Jake Kostecki109: Brodie Kostecki vs Will Brown163: Macauley Jones vs Jack Smith183: Todd Hazelwood vs Jack Le Brocq287: Mark Winterbottom vs Scott Pye388: David Reynolds vs Lee Holdsworth408: Andre Heimgartner vs Bryce Fullwood642: Chaz Mostert vs Nick Percat644: Cam Waters vs James Courtney845: Shane van Gisbergen vs Broc Feeney
*Not including PremiAir Racing (mid-season driver switch)