Dale Budge is a sports writer for the NZ Herald.

Motorsport: Coulthard on track to stay ahead

Scott McLaughlin celebrates after winning the last  round at Barbagallo Raceway. Photo / Getty Images
Scott McLaughlin celebrates after winning the last round at Barbagallo Raceway. Photo / Getty Images

Supercars championship leader Fabian Coulthard is enjoying a role reversal this season as he goes from trying to play catch-up to finding ways to hold off the challengers.

Coulthard and his DJR Team Penske outfit have been the story of the season so far - proving quick at every race circuit where the series has stopped and are clearly now the team everyone else is chasing.

"We've been doing the chasing for many years so for us to be chased is a good thing.

"The competition is never going to lay down. We have got some good competition - we need to be on top of our game and keep the consistency up and see how we stack up at the end," Coulthard said.

"It is not a done thing by any means - we still have to continue to work hard. It is early days but it is a good position to be in at this point of the year.

"I would much prefer it to be in December but it is May so we have a little way to go."

The Shell V-Power Fords dominated their rivals a fortnight ago at Barbagallo Raceway, where the team had struggled 12 months earlier.

This week, they head to the rural Victorian track of Winton, where they actually enjoyed some success a year ago.

"We qualified on the front row there last year and finished on the podium - that was with our car last year and I think we go there with a much better package this year so hopefully we will be in contention and we can be on that podium and spray some more champagne," Coulthard said.

Defending Supercars series champion Shane van Gisbergen might have been overshadowed recently by his fellow Kiwis Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin, but he's thrilled about his country's dominance of the Australian championship.

Coulthard leads van Gisbergen by 19 points after four rounds while McLaughlin dominated the last round at Barbagallo and has stormed into title contention.

While van Gisbergen and his Red Bull Holden Racing Team search for ways to catch-up to their Ford rivals, the 27-year-old admits he is stoked that the Kiwi contingent are leading the way this year.

"We are obviously in different teams," van Gisbergen told the Herald. "We have qualified top three in a couple of races but not been able to do it in a race just yet.

"That would be the most amazing thing - I don't care what the order is - to have all three Kiwis on the podium would be awesome."

It appears the trio could well fight out the 2017 title if current form continues.

"We are all in the best cars and teams of our careers so we will all be pushing hard," he said.

Winton Raceway

●Located: Near Benalla, Victoria
●Opened: 1961
●Length: 3.0km
●Known for: Long, fast straights and tight, twisty bends
●Lap record: Chaz Mostert 1:18.7603s (2016)
●Most round wins: Jim Richards (four)

Tips

Likely winner
Scott McLaughlin
is on a roll and should now be the championship favourite.

Dark horse
Both Nick Percat and Tim Slade will benefit from their BJR team using Winton as their local test track.

Big weekend for
Shane van Gisbergen - the reigning series champ has been off the boil the last couple of rounds and has struggled to keep up with teammate Jamie Whincup, let alone his Ford rivals.

- NZ Herald

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