Former production world rally champions Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were back on the podium for the second WRC event in a row. The pair showed they had lost none of their speed and race craft in a long international lay-off by finishing third at Rally Finland recently and they hit the all-tarmac Rally of Germany last weekend hoping to do just as well. After a bit of a hiccup on day one they managed to claw themselves back into contention and secured third place in the RC2 category behind Robert Kubica and Elfyn Evans.
Their strong result over the weekend moved Paddon into 10th position on the WRC2 championship. Taking eighth place overall against all the WRC competitors was an added bonus, earning Paddon four WRC drivers' championship points.
"After the first day's problem [alternator belt broke] it's a fantastic result and one that we are very happy with," said Paddon. "We had a drama-free final day and just took it steady to bring it home and bag another good result.
"It has been a weekend of progression in a sense. We dropped to 36th overall after stage one and climbed back to eighth, recovered from ninth ... to third and have now lifted from 19th in the WRC2 championship to 10th from our two scoring rounds to date. So everything is heading in the right direction.
"The Skoda's handling is very good, however, and on certain events we will be able to compete with them, and from knowing the difference between the cars we are encouraged with our speed and times."
Paddon and Kennard fly back to New Zealand for the September 7 running of the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally, part of the New Zealand Rally Championship, where they'll be back in their championship-winning Stadium Cars Evo 9.
As predicted in Saturday's Driven, the V8 Supercars race at Winton, Victoria, did indeed throw up another new winner. James Moffat grabbed his maiden win in the main game, which was also Nissan's first time on the podium top spot.
The other two race winners over the weekend were Mark Winterbottom, who continues to monster his way up the championship table, and a resurgent James Courtney. The series has been ripped wide open with the most successful team of late, Red Bull Racing Australia, having a weekend to forget.
A 12th different winner in 2013 and failures by Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes has led to the tightest championship battle in recent memory.
With the Enduro Cup races of the Sandown 500, the Bathurst 1000 and the Gold Coast 600 just weeks away anywhere up to nine drivers are in sight of the championship lead.
Mitch Evans GP2
Aucklander Mitch Evans wasn't able to repeat his form from his GP3 days at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium over the weekend at the Belgium Formula One Grand Prix.
Evans was hoping to get the car in the sweet spot during practice but was unable to do so, suffering engine overheating problems which curtailed his time in the machine to just a few laps.
With the lack of set-up time Evans struggled to qualify in 14th and battled stoically to cross the line in 11th.
Battling hard to try and rectify an ill-handling car the team went too far the wrong way for race two and Evans struggled from the time the lights went out. He hung in there through a few heart-in-the-mouth moments to get home in 10th for a single championship point.
"From the first lap I was struggling for rear grip. We had made a lot of changes to the set-up overnight and I was in trouble from the start," said Evans.
"We were on the back foot for the whole weekend and when you qualify back in the pack it's always a struggle because everyone's so close."
Will Power was gifted his first IndyCar win of the season when New Zealander Scott Dixon was hit with a penalty when leading the Sonoma race. As Dixon was exiting his pit box for the last time a Penske tyre handler failed to get out of the way and was hit by the Kiwi.
"He's walked towards us on purpose. It's probably the most blatant thing I've seen in a long time," said Dixon. "If you watch most pit guys they try and get out of the way of other people. I'm pretty annoyed with it all. We had a strong car all day."
The penalty moved Dixon all the way back to 20th where he moved up to 15th by race end. He now heads to Baltimore next weekend 39 points behind championship leader Helio Castroneves.