Baptism of fire for European driver in his first five Supercars rounds

The V8 Supercars are back in action this weekend in Darwin, after a five-week hiatus, for round six of the championship and it's turning into a packed grid at the top of the points table.

There are five drivers within less than a race weekend win of each other. Ford Performance Racing on recent results have been taking the game to all comers and Mark Winterbottom has the bragging rights heading to the far Northern Territory track. His teammate, youngster Chaz Mostert, has finally settled into a rhythm this year and is inside the top 10 in eighth.

Keeping the top FPR driver honest is Craig Lowndes in second with New Zealander Fabian Coulthard steadily collecting points in third. Behind them are defending champion Jamie Whincup and a reinvigorated James Courtney.

The other two Kiwis in the field, Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin, sit sixth and seventh respectively on the table. Young McLaughlin has taken the Volvo S60 as if it was tailor-made for him and is the top qualifier in the series. His teammate, Swede Robert Dahlgren, isn't doing so well -- understandably -- as this is the first time he's had to race a large, heavy, Southern Hemisphere, big-banging V8.


Dahlgren has pedigree in saloon car racing, having won the 2010 Scandinavian Touring Car Cup, but finds the V8 Supercars beast a bit of a handful. It's a task he's getting better and more consistent at.

"If I'd known just how difficult it was to drive these cars, I would have flown out a lot earlier," said Dahlgren. "They are massively different in ways I didn't think they would be.

"I've always been able to adjust my driving style for the different categories I've raced in the past but felt a bit lost with this car. I only had one day to try and learn how the car worked and then my first race at Adelaide -- a track I can't really try and find the limits of the car.

"The cars are very heavy and have a locked diff so when you brake you have to brake a lot heavier and for longer to be able to turn the car into the corner because of the low downforce. With this diff you can't roll through the corner and you have to force the car to do what you want it to do. You also have to drive the car differently for low and high speed corners.

"It doesn't help that I don't know the tracks here and am trying to find the limits of the car as well as learn the circuits. I am learning and some things are becoming more and more natural. I'm starting to feel I'm beginning to get to know the limits of the car and I know it's quick."

Dahlgren's first interest in Australia came about in 1995 and 1996 when he was racing karts.

He fell in love with the country back then and always wanted to return but the opportunity never arose until this year.

"When I was first here [Gold Coast] I thought the country was fantastic. I actually came back again in 2006 to try and get a drive and spoke to just about everyone in the paddock. Basically, though, no one knew who I was.

"I kept watching the races [V8 Supercars] while I continued to race in Europe and then when the chance came to come and race here I was very happy man. I had been working with Polestar helping them and testing their cars in Europe and my boss wanted me to be involved in the V8 Supercars' machine."

It wasn't all plain sailing getting to the championship for Dahlgren, though. It took quite a while for everything to get sorted.

"It was a big thing to arrange for my family to leave Sweden and luckily we managed to get it sorted and I was determined to give it a go and so here we are," said Dahlgren.