Dale Budge is a sports writer for the NZ Herald.

Motorsport: Criticism fails to detract from Fabian Coulthard win

Fabian Coulthard won his first race for DJR Team Penske in Tasmania last weekend. Photo / Edge Photographic
Fabian Coulthard won his first race for DJR Team Penske in Tasmania last weekend. Photo / Edge Photographic

New Zealand Supercars driver Fabian Coulthard isn't letting criticism from rival Rick Kelly or the penalty for his role in last weekend's massive crash detract from a maiden win for his DJR Team Penske.

Coulthard won last Sunday's race at Symmons Plains in Tasmania to record the first official race win for the merged entity but copped plenty of flak from Nissan veteran Kelly this week for failing to apologise after the Kiwi was penalised 35 championship points for contact on Kelly.

The incident between the two was a precursor to a massive pile-up involving 12 cars and effectively saw the Saturday race axed as a result. Kelly complained that Coulthard did not offer an apology for the incident but the majority of fans think the Kiwi was unfairly punished as he was on the racing line at the time and it appeared to be a racing incident.

"You can look via social media, Facebook and the Supercars site and things like that and see the things that Rick said, and that reaction basically answers it for me," Coulthard told the Weekend Herald.

"I don't need to say anything.

"We went through a hearing process and they segregated the whole crash to just the incident between Rick and I.

"I accepted the penalty and that was that. I didn't really comment on it. I just took it in my stride and left it to that.

"I controlled a slide and my left hand mirror was folded in. I controlled the slide and the next thing Rick was there. Nothing was intentional - I didn't go out of my way to try and run Rick into the fence.

"It was just the nature of the corner and trying to get 650hp to the ground in treacherous conditions and that was the outcome.

"The main thing for me is that everyone was OK afterwards and they segregated the incident to the actual cause of everything else that happened afterwards."

Coulthard accepted the penalty and was happy with the new system for examining incidents this year.

"Each one gets handled on its merits," Coulthard said. "No two incidents are the same. The process we went through was all good. We obviously need to see through the year to see if the consistency is there."

Fabian Coulthard of DJR Team Penske during the Australian Grand Prix. Photo / Edge Photographic
Fabian Coulthard of DJR Team Penske during the Australian Grand Prix. Photo / Edge Photographic

The debate this week has taken some gloss off what was a dominant performance by Coulthard and the Ford outfit. He took the chequered flag in a one-two finish with Kiwi teammate Scott McLaughlin to reward his hard-working team for their off-season improvements.

"Everyone has been putting in a massive amount of effort over the off-season. It is a team effort - if I don't have the car and the crew behind me, then I can't show my skills.

"I am pretty thankful to be part of DJR Team Penske or Shell V Power Racing and to be able to say I was the first person to win a championship race for Roger Penske in its current form is a pretty proud moment.

"Tasmania was a shocking round for us last year - we really struggled, the car was hard on its tyres and I don't think anyone expected us to finish one-two as Scott and I did the other day.

"We have got to keep focusing on improving the cars and keep our consistency."

The first two rounds have shown the championship is wide open this season. Defending champion Shane van Gisbergen dominated the opening round on the streets of Adelaide before Coulthard and McLaughlin cleaned up in Tasmania.

Prodrive Racing's Chaz Mostert appeared to be heading for victory last week before he made a small mistake so all three teams will be buoyed by their early season results.

"Each year, it's a little bit different," Coulthard said. "I think it's as competitive as ever but Adelaide was a bit crazy with results - it wasn't all the regular guys up the front. In Tassie, a few people had issues.

"Triple Eight, PRA, ourselves and the old HRT - HSV Racing or whatever they call themselves. It is interesting at the moment."

The next round is at Phillip Island next weekend.

- NZ Herald

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