V8 Supercars: New Zealand's got talent

By Eric Thompson

We preview the Kiwis who are set to dominate on home turf

Fabian Coulthard

At the end of the 2012 V8 Supercars season it looked as if New Zealand would have only one fulltime driver in the category this year.

Fabian Coulthard was the only Kiwi name to be confirmed in the main game.

Greg Murphy was signed up only for the endurance rounds with Garth Tander at HRT. Shane van Gisbergen had decided he'd had enough of V8 racing and wanted time out, and Scott McLaughlin had only an endurance role.

After Christmas things changed dramatically.

McLaughlin had signed with Brad Jones Racing, Van Gisbergen had had his short sabbatical and was back in the fray with Tekno Autosport, and Jonny Reid got a late call-up to go to play at Dick Johnson Racing.

All of a sudden there were more New Zealanders in the category than there had been for a while and Kiwi fans will be scratching their heads wondering who to support at this weekend's third round at Pukekohe.

Driven runs a ruler over the Kiwi contenders for a podium finish and, if the current form of three of the drivers is anything to go on, there's a better than even chance we'll have a homegrown race winner some time over the weekend.

Fabian Coulthard

He's the current man on fire. He's not just the best performing of the New Zealand drivers; he's also one of the best in the category. Putting the opening round at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide aside, Coulthard has finished in the top three in every race since with five wins and two thirds. The irksome thing championship points-wise for him, though, is three of the wins were at the non-championship points scoring round at the Australian Grand Prix.

The 30-year-old proved that was no fluke by picking up another two wins in Tasmania last weekend and a third place to lie 7th in the title race. Coulthard is looking forward to coming to New Zealand and reckons he's the man to lead the Kiwi charge on the revamped circuit. Greg Murphy owned the New Zealand round of the series when it was last at Pukekohe, but don't be overly surprised if Coulthard picks up the mantle this weekend.

Shane van Gisbergen

For a few years the 23-year-old has been the rising star of the series and was recognised as one of the best young drivers around. A man who did his talking behind the wheel, Van Gisbergen left the championship at the end of 2012, but was tempted back by the Tekno Autosport team.

He put a few noses out of joint by leaving the sport saying he wanted a rest (he never said he was retiring) then coming back. Those out-of-shape noses were further bent when he promptly won in Adelaide in a new team in a new car.

He won another race at the Melbourne weekend but was excluded, with a number of other drivers, because of a technical infringement. Tasmania was a bit of an up-and-down weekend but the Giz sits 9th in the championship and is a proven winner on home soil so expect to see him on the podium after at least one of the races.

Scott McLaughlin

From Driven's perspective, McLaughlin is the man. This bloke hasn't had the experience in the main game the other Kiwis have had but, boy, can the guy drive a V8 racecar. You knew there was something special about the 19-year-old last year when he won the Development Series and the local V8 SuperTourer titles in back-to-back weekends.

In the nine races this year McLaughlin has finished outside the top 10 only once and won in Melbourne. The field is full of talented drivers and McLaughlin appears, at this point of the season, to be very much at home in the category.

If he picks up a win this weekend he'll be a genuine force to contend with and may even challenge for the series' title. Points mean prizes and McLaughlin sits fifth in the championship. Although it's early days, he looks good to continue collecting more.

Jonny Reid

The talented open wheel racer and A1GP race winner has been dropped in the deep end at Dick Johnson Racing with a team that is struggling to find its feet at the moment. Reid was a last-minute signing to the team and DJR were also behind the eight ball when it came to getting ready for this year's season.

It appears the team has been using the opening rounds as glorified test sessions and Reid's two DNFs at Adelaide didn't help, either. Things got a bit better in Melbourne with the 29-year-old getting his best finish so far in 14th place. Tasmania was a bit of a struggle but at least Reid is finishing races now.

Pukekohe this weekend will again be more of a learning phase for Reid and the team, and racing on home soil may just be the impetus needed to get him moving up the field. Reid has the talent to do well and, in a good car, will feature.

- NZ Herald

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