V8 Supercars: V8 Kiwis in mood for Anzac fight

By Steve Deane

Confident Coulthard says trio of New Zealand drivers are gunning for a home victory in ITM 500 at Pukekohe.

Changes to the track last year, which include a chicane on the back straight and larger run-off areas, have made the famous circuit safer. Photo / Greg Bowker
Changes to the track last year, which include a chicane on the back straight and larger run-off areas, have made the famous circuit safer. Photo / Greg Bowker

The three New Zealand contenders at this week's ITM 500 at Pukekohe will be tapping into the Anzac spirit as they look to post an elusive home V8 Supercars victory.

"Obviously, Anzac day, Australia versus New Zealand, it's going to bring a lot to the sport," in-form Kiwi Fabian Coulthard said.

With just three locals in the 25-driver field, the odds of Kiwis topping the podium in the four races at the three-day championship schedule are not great, but Coulthard - who claimed two pole positions and a race victory last time out in Winton - is not daunted.

"The odds are stacked against us but we have got the support of a nation. Normally it is the other way around so that is pretty cool."

Their familiarity with the Pukekohe track should certainly help Coulthard and fellow Kiwis Scott McLaughlin and Shane Van Gisbergen.

"We love it," said Coulthard. "It is the only home race we have. The track has got a lot of character. There are so many different surfaces. It's bumpy, fast, it has a combination of everything."

The Kiwi contingent had all been in good form this season.

"We've all been in amongst the top-five grid spots. We haven't got that all-elusive Kiwi podium yet but we're trying."

Changes to the track last year, which include a chicane on the back straight and larger run-off areas, have made the famous circuit safer but hadn't detracted from its character.

"We still do that hairpin [at the end of the back straight] but we just arrive a bit slower. And the big balls corners, the last corner and the first corner, are still the same. If you look over the top of that hill on the last corner it is narrow and friggin fast. It is a massive commitment, fifth gear and in excess of 200km/h, so you have to have your wits about you there."

Fans should enjoy the tweaks to the racing format this year. For the first time a race will be held on Friday. That 100km hit-out will be followed by two more 100km races on Saturday and a 200km race - the longest V8 Supercars race held at Pukekohe - on Sunday. There will be practice and qualifying events tomorrow.

Qualifying sessions for the Saturday and Sunday races have been cut to 10 minutes, ensuring there will be some furious action as drivers hustle for grid position.

"There is going to be plenty of action," Coulthard said. "The intensity level for those 10-minute qualifying sessions has gone through the roof."

Read more stories on the V8 Supercars series here.

- NZ Herald

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