Motorsport: Race hard - but don't ding the car

By Eric Thompson

Kiwis confident as V8s head for Tassie, then straight on to Pukekohe

Fabian Coulthard likes the new cars, and is pleased with his form in opening rounds of the V8 Supercars. Photo / Edge Photographics
Fabian Coulthard likes the new cars, and is pleased with his form in opening rounds of the V8 Supercars. Photo / Edge Photographics

This weekend the V8 Supercars are at Symmons Plains, Tasmania, for round three of the championship and the first of the new 60/60 Super Sprint events.

Under this format drivers don't have to worry about how much fuel they're burning or wear on their tyres.

This will open up the racing as drivers will have to concentrate only on race craft, rather than tyre and fuel strategy.

On the other side of the coin it will be nail-biting time for team principals, engineers, mechanics and pit crews. Staying out of trouble and not bending the car will be vital this weekend as from Tasmania, cars and crew go straight to New Zealand for the ITM 400.

None of the 28 cars in the field will be able to return to their bases between events, placing a premium on contingency planning for replacement parts.

Damaged or not, all cars will have to be loaded into their trucks by late Monday morning to make the boat back to Melbourne.

The crews will then spend Tuesday morning moving spares from their trucks to already partially stocked aircraft containers at Melbourne Airport, and the cars and equipment will fly to New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

The drivers will be thinking about how the new Car of the Future will handle on one of the more technical circuits on the calendar.

While realising it is early days in the series, Kiwi driver Fabian Coulthard is pleased with the way his car, and team, are performing.

In the opening round of the championship, in Adelaide, Coulthard was quick all weekend and in contention for podium finishes in both races but fell short because of mechanical issues.

At the Australian Grand Prix, a non-point scoring round, the Lockwood Racing pilot was on fire. He put the field to the sword by winning three of the four races and came home third in the other, which was won by another Kiwi, Scott McLaughlin.

"Tassie hasn't been the best place for BJR [Brad Jones Racing] in the past," said Coulthard.

"Focusing on this weekend though, we've come off a pretty good time at the Grand Prix weekend. It was awesome for my confidence and the team's pumped.

"I can't wait to get there and get on track. We've been to three different tracks and been fast on all of them.

"Everyone is now on a level playing field with the new cars and we've got some of the better cars. It's a short technical circuit, but I don't hate the joint at all - I got my first V8 Supercar podium there."

Fellow Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen is in resurgent form now he's with Tekno Autosport, and showed just how good he is by winning race two at the opening round at the Clipsal 500.

"Qualifying is going to be really important as the circuit is quite short," said van Gisbergen.

"We're in pretty good cars and have to keep making the most of them until the others catch up.

"The DNF in the first race of season means we're in 10th place, but if we can get some good points this weekend we should be back in it."

Heading to Tasmania, the best-placed Kiwi driver is McLaughlin at sixth on the points table. The main game rookie is keeping out of trouble and collecting points along the way.

He has undoubted speed as witnessed by his win in Melbourne and his top-10 finishes in Adelaide.

"Everything is working well at the moment and we just have to stick to our goals and keep doing what we're doing ... and as long as we keep our heads up we'll be okay," said McLaughlin.

•The Super Sprint has two 60km-lap races split by 15 minutes. The grid for part one is set in qualifying, the finishing order decides the grid for part two. The second 25-lapper is where the points get paid out. Adding intrigue and complexity, part two will have a double-file rolling start.

The Tassie round ends tomorrow with two 120km races. That means there will be no refuelling pit stops all weekend, and any changing of the mandatory soft tyres will be driven by strategy rather than necessity.

V8 Supercars points

1. Craig Lowndes 279

2. Jamie Whincup 267

3. Will Davison 240

4. Russell Ingall 198

5. James Courtney 192

6. Scott McLaughlin 186

7. Jonathon Webb 168

8. Tony D'Alberto 159

- NZ Herald

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