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Sunday Wrap: Triple Eight cracks keep Ford title hopes alive

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After a stunning Saturday, Townsville delivered again on Sunday
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After a stunning Saturday, Townsville delivered again on Sunday with an enthralling strategy thriller, which was won by Matt Payne.

In 176 laps of racing, the NTI Townsville 500 put on a show, and for the first time this season, the runaway championship leaders didn't have it all their own way.

So, what does it all mean for Sydney, and beyond? That will all unfold in two weeks' time, but for now, Triple Eight is finally under some scoreboard pressure, with Chaz Mostert and Cam Waters making up key ground.

Triple Eight shows first cracks

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Triple Eight has 22 wins in Townsville, but beyond Will Brown's charge to the podium on Saturday, the team didn't get near its previous Reid Park form. The team hasn't really had a handle on street circuits in the Gen3 era, going winless since Newcastle 2023. Brown was superb in the final stint on Saturday, but was punished for poor qualifying pace in a Sunday incident, he ultimately took responsibility for. Broc Feeney, meanwhile, finished seventh twice. Was it as simple as dropping off thanks to a tyre batch, or is the team starting to feel the pressure?

If (or when) Triple Eight fights back, can the leading Fords keep it up?

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Cam Waters and Chaz Mostert were, overall, the class of the field in Townsville. It carried more weight given Triple Eight were off the pace, with both drivers making up critical ground in the championship. Mostert said before the weekend that Triple Eight weren't having bad days, so to capitalise on Triple Eight bad days could prove key on the run to Adelaide in November. Walkinshaw Andretti United and Tickford Racing will be desperate to be competitive in Sydney, regardless of Triple Eight's performance.

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Could this win unlock more wins for Payne?

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Last year's Adelaide win seemed a mile away for Matt Payne during wobbles in Perth and Darwin, but come Townsville (and Sunday in particular), the #19 Ford was the car to beat. Payne had a great round in Melbourne with a pole and two podiums, but beyond the pole in Taupō, the Kiwi has been lucky to get a top five. Is this the catalyst for more wins for Payne, who could prove a thorn in the side for the leading title contenders?

Can Waters work his way back into title contention?

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It has been a hell of a rollercoaster for Cam Waters, who has two wins, four poles, and plenty of frustration through five rounds. This time last year, he was 309 points down, but critically, was winless. He is further back this time around, but has wins on the board. Waters was 515 points behind Will Brown after Darwin, and is now 389 points down. That's 126 points on Brown in one weekend, and with 1800 points to win, Waters is far from out of this title fight.

Is Erebus on the cusp of something?

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Jack Le Brocq was a shock pole-sitter on Sunday, and came home fourth. Brodie Kostecki's weekend was undone by car troubles, but the speed of Le Brocq, who also finished sixth on Saturday, proved the reigning champions have some fight left. The team won the night race in Sydney last year, setting up Kostecki's run to the title. There was pressure to prove Kostecki's podium in Darwin was no fluke, and getting the other car to fire in Townsville proved the team has something to fight with.

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