Motorsport: Tasmania hosts V8 Supercars round

By Eric Thompson

In-form Kiwi has history on his side but follows big footsteps

Scott McLaughlin and teammate Robert Dahlgren are off to a flyer. Picture / Getty Images
Scott McLaughlin and teammate Robert Dahlgren are off to a flyer. Picture / Getty Images

The second round of the V8 Supercars championship kicks off in Tasmania this weekend and all eyes will be on New Zealander Scott McLaughlin to see if he - and his Volvo - will continue their current form.

Volvo, in the hands of McLaughlin, claimed its first V8 Supercar race win in the non-championship race weekend as a support category for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park, and history is also on its side for the trip to Tasmania.

McLaughlin and his teammate, Robert Dahlgren, will have some big footsteps to follow in Tasmania as Volvo claimed victory at Symmons Plains in the 1985 and 1986 rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship with fellow Kiwi Robbie Francevic behind the wheel of his flying brick, the 240 Turbo.

In 1985 he led home Dick Johnson's Mustang and Jim Richards' BMW 635, while in 1986 he led home George Fury's Nissan Skyline and John Harvey's Commodore.

Last year McLaughlin finished eighth in all three races at Symmons Plains in a Holden.

While McLaughlin and the Volvo are off to a flyer in the series, reigning champion and five-times series winner Jamie Whincup has had his worst start in nine years. The Red Bull Racing Australia pilot is 108 points off the pace, but it's early days yet.

His teammate Craig Lowndes, however, has banked a decent haul of points to lead the series from Kiwis Fabian Coulthard and Shane van Gisbergen, with Rick Kelly in the Nissan in fourth. Coulthard will be keen to emulate his Symmons Plains escapades from last year where he notched up his maiden V8 Supercars win. The Kiwi qualified second for all three races and claimed victory in race one and race three with a third place finish in race two.

HRT's Garth Tander will also be one to watch in Tasmania, having won seven races in his career on the island's track.

Mark Winterbottom may be light on race wins in Tassie but he's one of the most consistent drivers, having finished a respectable 18 of the last 20 races in the top five.

His qualifying form has been strong in Tasmania, claiming three pole positions with an average qualifying position better than any other driver in the field.

Winterbottom is back in Australia after getting more race kilometres under his belt in Brazil where he raced at Interlagos in the Brazilian Stock Car series over the weekend.

The V8 driver teamed with Sergio Jiminez in a Peugeot 408-skinned racecar to finish fourth but the pair were elevated to third after the team in front were hit with a penalty.

Three drivers - Swede Dahlgren, Nick Percat and Chaz Mostert - are making their first championship starts at Symmons Plains. However, Percat and Mostert are no strangers to the circuit with Percat having won the Australian Formula Ford Championship round at the circuit there in 2008 and 2009 (his title-winning season), while Mostert won in 2010 on the weekend he sealed the championship.

Russell Ingall, who sort of retired at the end of last year but couldn't stay away, is the most experienced V8 Supercar driver at Symmons Plains, making his 15th appearance. The overall round winner in 2004, Ingall has never actually won a V8 Supercar race at the Tasmanian circuit but finished second in the Saturday race in 2009.

He's had one of his better starts to a season this year and sits 12th on the points table and would dearly love to knock off a win.

Points after one round

1. Craig Lowndes - 282
2. Fabian Coulthard - 230
3. Shane van Gisbergen - 221
4. Rick Kelly - 198
5. James Courtney - 192
6. Mark Winterbottom - 189
7. Jamie Whincup - 174
8. Tim Slade - 163

- NZ Herald

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