Motorsport: Flames and Lames Tue Jun 21

By Dale Budge

Shane Van Gisbergen celebrates after winning race 2 at the V8 Supercars Darwin round. Photo / Getty Images
Shane Van Gisbergen celebrates after winning race 2 at the V8 Supercars Darwin round. Photo / Getty Images

Flames

Nico Rosberg
The championship leader extended the gap back to reigning F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton to 24 points with a win in the first ever grand prix in Baku, Azerbaijan. The German took advantage of his Mercedes teammate's crash in qualifying by parking his car on pole and then maintaining that advantage throughout the race. After three successive rounds where he lost points to Hamilton, Rosberg will gladly take the small advantage gained this week.

Shane van Gisbergen
The Kiwi V8 Supercars peddler could have had an even better weekend in Darwin had he not been penalized for an indiscretion at a re-start on Saturday's race that saw him given a drive through penalty from the lead of the race. His pace across the weekend was consistently better than his rivals however as he grabbed back to back pole positions and a race win on Sunday. He even managed to recover to 15th in the Saturday race to bank a few valuable championship points. He lies fifth in the standings but this weekend demonstrated that he is a genuine title contender in 2016.

Chris Pither
In what was a disastrous round for Ford, Kiwi driver Chris Pither was the one shining light for the Blue Oval brigade at Hidden Valley Raceway. V8 Supercars championship leader Mark Winterbottom, teammates Chaz Mostert and Cam Waters as well as DJR Team Penske pair of Fabian Coulthard and Scott Pye had horror weekends at the latest round of the series while Pither calmly drove his Super Black Racing Ford to 14th and 11th in the two races over the weekend. After a horrible start to the season Pither has climbed to 22nd in the standings.

Lames

Mark Winterbottom
The defending V8 Supercars champion didn't have the outright pace to challenge for race wins in Darwin but he blew a golden opportunity to bank solid points as many other contenders hit problems in the heat of Hidden Valley. He ran into the back of Todd Kelly in spectacular fashion, made uncharacteristic errors and looked totally out of sorts in the tropics. His championship lead disappeared and he'll be scratching his head for answers before the next round in Townsville in a fortnight.

Lewis Hamilton
Having eaten away teammate Nico Rosberg's championship lead over the past three rounds Hamilton looked to be the driver to beat in Baku early in the weekend. But a crash in qualifying saw the three-time world champion start from 10th and he failed to make a run at the front of the field as Rosberg eased to victory. For the Brit it was a couple of steps forward and one back and he can't afford to give Rosberg many free points after the slow start to the year.

Kiwis at Le Mans
The Kiwi contingent came up empty in what was the 50th anniversary since Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon won the famous 24 hour race over the weekend. Brendon Hartley had the best chance of victory in a factory Porsche but a water pump problem forced his combination alongside Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber to withdraw. Scott Dixon, Earl Bamber and Richie Stanaway also failed to feature in their respective classes.

Meat in the Sandwich
Fabian Coulthard lasted less than a lap at Hidden Valley on Sunday as Chaz Mostert and James Moffat jammed him in on a part of the circuit where three cars couldn't quite fit together. The end result was a busted up DJR Team Penske Ford and a frustrated Coulthard having to hitch a ride back to the garage.

Complete Mess
The scenes early in Sunday's V8 Supercar race in Darwin were chaotic to say the least. After a first lap crash involving Lee Holdsworth , Fabian Coulthard and Chaz Mostert, the entire field flew into the pits to take advantage of an extended period behind the safety car. But due to cars stacking to get into the shared pit bays, the whole thing became a complete mess as cars couldn't exit until the stacked cars in front cleared a path ahead. Why the series continues to allow stacking is puzzling.

When It Rains It Pours
While drivers had to contend with burning heat in Darwin further south at the Rally of Queensland drivers just tried to avoid getting washed away. Heavy rain and flooding hampered the event, eventually won by Gaurav Gill, before organisers cancelled four stages at the end of the event.

- NZ Herald

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