Shane van Gisbergen and his Red Bull Holden Racing Team are putting the emphasis on finding the right qualifying set-up as he tries to fight his way back into the Supercars championship battle.

The Kiwi trails compatriot Scott McLaughlin by 161 points heading into this weekend's round in Townsville. While he has been able to compete pretty evenly with McLaughlin's Shell V-Power Ford in race mode, he has had to come from further down the grid because of a lack of qualifying pace.

The 2016 champion started the Perth round in 12th spot but did manage to grab pole on the Sunday. He was 14th and seventh at Winton while he started the most recent round at Hidden Valley near Darwin in fifth and 11th spot, which makes it very difficult to fight for race wins, especially when McLaughlin has basically been starting from front each time.

"It is just how it is at the moment," Van Gisbergen told Radio Sport. "Our series is so tough; there are so many fast cars and I think on our side it is qualifying where we lack.


"When you are starting at the back all the time it makes for entertaining watching coming through every time. It is pretty cool putting on all the moves and the good strategy but we just need to start up the front.

"Scotty is leading the championship because he is starting off the front row every race. I think we have got his pace covered in the racing but just in qualifying he is doing a stellar job.

"We just need to understand that and be a bit quicker and when we start up front we can race head-to-head."

The qualifying issues come down to outright, one-lap speed and setting the cars up right to extract the absolute best out of it for one flying lap. Over the duration of Van Gisbergen's now decade-long career he has demonstrated an ability to be an excellent qualifying driver so the onus really is on the team to find the right set-up.

"It is a combination of everything," he explained. "It isn't just me; it is all three of our team cars that are struggling in the same area.

"As a team we need to understand and get a bit better. Also execute on the driving side – there have been times when the car has been good and I haven't nailed it."

The Townsville track is unique in that it is half park circuit and half street race, which creates a balance issue in terms of setting the cars up.

Van Gisbergen does have a history of strong results at the venue while his teammate Jamie Whincup is the most successful driver at the race. The reigning series champion will be looking for his 10th race win at the venue in what is the 10th season the series has visited the North Queensland location.


Driver to beat: Van Gisbergen has history on his side. He found success at the small budget Tekno team here and carried that on with his move to Red Bull Holden, who has plenty of success here too.
Dark horse: Erebus Holden driver David Reynolds is third in the championship so I'll go for his rookie teammate Anton de Pasquale.
Under pressure: Tickford Racing are in the middle of a forgettable season and desperately need to string some podiums together. Chaz Mostert and Mark Winterbottom in particular seem like the forgotten contenders these days.