Lee Holdsworth has edged closer to his first podium finish in 1987 days, after clocking the fastest lap at Pukekohe Park Raceway in yesterday's second practice session for the ITM Auckland SuperSprint.

The Bottle-O Mustang driver, who last stood on the podium as a winner at Winton in April 2014, was quickest in drying conditions ahead of Auckland-born Red Bull Holden Ace Shane van Gisbergen and Milwaukee Racing Mustang's Will Davison.

Holdsworth's record-setting effort in the second practice topped a clean sweep for Tickford Racing drivers, with Davison the quickest in the first session.

Friday the 13th proved unlucky for defending champion Scott McLaughlin though, with his Shell V-Power Mustang starter motor not working in the opening stages of P2.


His team rallied in his 100th career round start and had the runaway series leader on track late, where he managed to clock the seventh quickest lap of the session.

McLaughlin's challenge this weekend is to see if he can pick up at least one win over the two days of racing to break Craig Lowndes' record of 16 wins in a season. What's more interesting is what's happening to the chasing pack.

Just over a race win, 174 points, separates Chaz Mostert, Fabian Coulthard, van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup who have all swapped positions in an effort to catch the fast disappearing McLaughlin, with Dave Reynolds just staying in touch a further 59 points back.

Most Kiwi fans will be rooting for McLaughlin, but keep in mind something Coulthard said in an earlier chat to the Weekend Herald, "It doesn't matter who the fans cheer for, just make sure it's a Kiwi."

Last year, all five New Zealanders in the field made the top five shoot-out. With such a passionate crowd urging them on, especially from over the hill as the cars come on to the front straight, don't be surprised if they (McLaughlin, Coulthard, van Gisbergen, Andre Heimgartner and Richie Stanaway) all make it again this year.

The Australian V8 series first came to Pukekohe in 2001 and while Greg Murphy was racing he owned the event lock, stock and barrel. He collected nine wins and a total of 13 podium finishes during 21 starts between 2001 and 2007.

Although the new crop of Kiwi racers won't challenge that remarkable record this weekend, they are young enough to make inroads into it.

Van Gisbergen has four race wins and 11 podiums in his 19 starts since the series moved back to the South Auckland track in 2013.


McLaughlin became the youngest Supercars' race winner when he managed his maiden victory at the track in 2013. He has since added another race win and has 10 podiums to reiterate his love of the track.

Someone who might put the cat among the Kiwi pigeons is seven-time Supercars champion Whincup. He has six wins and 11 podiums, underpinning the fact he knows his way around Pukekohe and will be a constant threat this weekend. Well, that is if Triple Eight can get his car working straight out of the truck rather than fighting to find the right setup all weekend as has happened quite a bit this season.

One to watch over the weekend could be Reynolds who again is having a solid season but hasn't quite fired up as he did last year. He's just signed a 10-year contract with his team Erebus, so will be happy in the knowledge his career is pretty safe for a bit. Not having to worry about contracts could just free him up to focus solely on racing.

This year marks the seventh time drivers will compete for the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy since it was first introduced in 2013.

Richards' former Tasman Motorsport teammate Whincup is the only repeat winner, claiming the trophy in 2015 and 2017.

Ford's Mustang will make its first championship start in New Zealand this weekend, although Pukekohe hasn't been the happiest hunting ground for the manufacturer. Fords have won just seven of the 40 Pukekohe races held since 2001.

The real curve ball this weekend will be the weather. Four seasons in a day will be a challenge for teams to anticipate what tyres to put on their cars.