‘Robson Civil Projects’ Townsville SuperSprint
Circuit: Reid Park Street Circuit
Well, last week was the NTI Townsville SuperSprint, and this weekend was the Robson Civil Projects Townsville SuperSprint, which the same damn event, except it’s sponsored by Robson Civil Projects.
Apparently they perform Civil Projects… not hostile ones.
Now, the major news since the original Townsville meeting – Due to the effects of COVID-19 and the scale of the event, the Adelaide 500 won’t be able to open the 2021 season in it’s usual February-March slot.
If you ask me, if the SA Government do manage to actually get the event together for 2021, and assuming State Governments have the money to invest in street circuits, they should hold next year’s event in that November timeslot when the Australian Grand Prix used to be.
Think about that, they could end the year with the mega events – The 500km Enduro at The Bend, The Bathurst 1000, the Gold Coast 600, Adelaide 500, then the massive piss-up at Newcastle to end the year.
Still, that’s all it’s going to be – An idea.
Race 22 (39 Laps)
Scott McLaughlin qualified fastest for the Top 10 shootout with a 1.12.249, a mere 0.0121 seconds ahead of Jamie Whincup, as the Top 4 cars were all within a tenth of each other – Shane van Gisbergen was only 0.0270s behind, and Chaz Mostert was only 0.0894s behind in 4th, and the Top 10 were only split by 3-tenths.
Come the Shootout, to the surprise of nobody, the 2-time champion delivered the goods as the last car on track, claiming pole with a 1.12.014, 2-tenths ahead of van Gisbergen, with Cameron Waters jumping from 6th to start 3rd, while Whincup was 7th.
At the start, McLaughlin led from van Gisbergen into Turn 2, while Todd Hazelwood stalled from a promising 6th on the grid (Clutch failure), as all the cars got through without incident, and Whincup climbed up to 5th ahead of David Reynolds heading into Reid Park for the first time.
As the field settled down, the early mover was Scott Pye, who had hamstrung himself by qualifying 17th, but was into the Top 10 by Lap 12, reaching 9th after a pass on Coulthard on Lap 14, as Reynolds slowly slipped through the field, being passed by teammate Anton De Pasquale and Nick Percat.
Whincup was the first of the main drivers to pit on Lap 16, once again going for the 2-tyre stop that worked well last weekend, which got Jamie back out ahead of Waters and Mostert (Who both changed 3 tyres) when they both pitted several laps later, while at the same time, Reynolds retired after a power steering failure on the Erebus Commodore.
McLaughlin built a 3.9 second lead over van Gisbergen at the moment when the Shell Mustang pitted on Lap 17, going for the usual 3-tyre stop, and without any issue, he was back out ahead of Whincup, while Waters was able to stay ahead of Mostert after his stop on Lap 20, but the pair of them had the advantage of fresher tyres over the Red Bull Holden.
On Lap 21, van Gisbergen, who had stayed out longer than his rivals and led the race, suffered a massive power steering failure, almost pitching him into the Turn 10 fence because of the fluid spewing out and onto his rear tyres.
Gizzy pitted straight away, knowing the car was pretty much toast, but Triple 8 just changed the Kiwi’s tyres and his steering wheel, thinking it was a simple fix.
Just by chance, did they nick that steering wheel from Jack Brabham’s Cooper-Climax?
What was also hilarious was Mark Larkham mentioned that the car’s underbody was on fire and was still spewing out fluid as it left the pits, and predictably, race control gave No.97 a mechanical black flag, and Gizzy’s frustration’s continued with a big fat 0 next to his name.
So after Pye pitted, McLaughlin assumed the lead again, while Waters and Mostert were closing right up on Whincup, and the podium positions changed thanks to successive moves at Turn 13:
Waters on Lap 23, and Mostert with a brave late dive on Lap 24, as Whincup knew he didn’t have the grip to stop either of them.
At the same time, Percat and De Pasquale were having a grand old battle for 5th and 6th, as the faster Anton appeared to finally got the move done at Turn 11, only for Percat to make the classic criss-cross up the inside at Turn 12, but despite Nick’s attempts to squeeze him into the barrier, Anton stuck to it and made a cracking second attempt up the inside at Turn 13, sealing the deal by giving the BJR-Commodore a bump on the corner exit.
That’s some good hard racing without totally overstepping the mark.
Speaking of that, Ricky Kelly and James Courtney nearly overstepped the mark in the tussle for 10th spot, as Cheap Rick and JC rubbed wheels to such a degree that Courtney was almost left pointing backwards on the pit straight, but eventually it was Courtney who rounded out the Top 10.
Despite Waters cutting into the final margin, McLaughlin was never threatened in the lead, taking his tenth win of the season by 3.5 seconds to the Monster Mustang in a repeat of Race 21, Mostert scored another podium finish in 3rd, and Whincup was 4th, with De Pasquale only 2 seconds behind in 5th, simply running out laps to challenge the Red Bull HRT.
Another pole at Townsville, and another win for McLaughlin.
Race 23 (39 Laps)
In the first session of what turned out to be a memorable Fathers Day morning for Brad Jones and his team, Nick Percat, after coming so close last Sunday, claimed his maiden Supercars pole position on his last flying lap, edging out McLaughlin by only 8-hundredths (1.12.2623 to a 1.12.3423), with Waters and van Gisbergen completing the second row.
At the start, Percat and McLaughlin both covered the inside going into Turn 2, but none of them saw the flying Kiwi braking deep down their outside, and van Gisbergen rounded McLaughlin to go from 4th to 2nd.
Percat maintained the lead through the opening laps from SVG, McLaughlin was in 3rd ahead of Whincup, Hazelwood and Jack Le Brocq, but on Lap 7, van Gisbergen had been building, and struck without warning at Turn 13 to take the lead, and Percat gave him the space so as to attempt a cutback into Turn 2, but the Red Bull Holden had him covered.
McLaughlin and Whincup were the first leading cars to stop on Lap 15, with both DJR-Penske and Red Bull HRT changing 3 wheels, and all told, Red Bull were the faster crew, but the gap Scotty had proved crucial, as he got out ahead of Jamie by half a car-length, despite a slow change on the left front.
Hazelwood actually rejoined ahead of Whincup when he stopped a lap later, but the Brut Commodore was docked 15 seconds for spinning his rears in his stop (Caused by not activating the pit limiter), which was a kick in the nuts for The Todd, considering he was right in the fight for 4th with Waters and Le Brocq.
SVG pitted from a 4.2 second lead on Lap 17 and changed all 4 tyres, while Percat stayed out until Lap 21, but actually lost ground by staying out longer, rejoining behind Waters, Le Brocq and the penalised Hazelwood in an effective 7th position, albeit with the younger tyre set.
As the Top 3 circled around Reid Park in single file, Percat put his tyres to good use, picking off Le Brocq and Waters, and once again, Scott Pye was finishing fast in Townsville thanks to a long first stint, picking off Reynolds, Holdsworth and Mostert to climb up to 8th place, and by race end, he didn’t even need Hazelwood’s penalty to pass the BJR Commodore for 6th.
Starting from 11th, Pye was only 1.3 seconds off Waters and a Top 5 finish by race end…. fantastic work by all the crew at Team 18.
So with an 8.4 second cushion at the line, van Gisbergen finally won a race in 2020, with McLaughin starting and finishing 2nd, 1.5 seconds ahead of Whincup in 3rd, with Percat finishing strong for 4th, and as previously mentioned, Waters was home in 5th, promoting him up to 3rd in the Championship with Mostert down in 10th.
More significantly, it was Triple 8’s 200th race victory, the first ATCC team to ever achieve the feat, which is even more remarkable considering they’ve only been around for 17 years.
I still fondly remember the good old days of Triple 8 when they were Team Betta Electrical, with Paul Radisich and Max Wilson driving Falcons that had a penchant for shitting themselves.
Craig Lowndes and Stone Brothers engines.
That started the juggernaut.
Race 24 (39 Laps)
Continuing on from Qualifying for Race 23, in the second of the Sunday morning sessions, Todd Hazelwood became the second Brad Jones Racing driver to claim their maiden pole position, pinching it at the death from Nick Percat to give BJR a front row lockout, ahead of Chaz Mostert and Anton de Pasquale, while Shane van Gisbergen started down in 12th.
Still, the major moment occurred in the final minute, when Scott McLaughlin was on a lap that would’ve rocketed him up to the top, but exiting Turn 13, he found himself stuck in the path of Gary Jacobson, who ran wide in the corner, and he also hadn’t been told by the team of the faster car behind him, and McLaughlin gave the Matt Stone Commodore a right old whack, costing him some 3-tenths, which was still the fastest time, but he would ultimately drop down to start 10th.
McLaughlin was pissed off, Jacobson was “Disgusted” with himself and profusely apologetic to the championship leader, and he also got a 3-place grid penalty, but the funnier part was, because Jacobson was starting from last, he’ll have to serve it at The Bend, on the basis that he qualifies beyond 24th.
As the final race in Townsville began, Hazelwood led from Percat, with De Pasquale sitting 3rd in the early laps before dropping back, while new dad Chris Pither didn’t have much joy on Fathers Day, retiring after Lap 1 due to a front-left tyre failure.
Similar to last weekend, DJR-Penske called in McLaughlin very early to get him out of traffic and make the undercut work, this time pitting the Kiwi on Lap 8, which would obviously leave him vulnerable in the final laps.
On Lap 15, the next major incident started when Percat locked up and went wide at Turn 11, allowing Whincup past for 3rd, hanging Percat out wide when he was due to pit, while Waters in behind slightly lifted the throttle as Nick was peeling right at the same time.
Cutting a long story short, van Gisbergen didn’t lift in time and spun the Monster Mustang.
SVG claimed on the radio that he had no chance to avoid contact, and somehow, Race Control agreed, determining that no driver was “Wholly or predominantly to blame”, which evidently annoyed Cam as the aggrieved party, but I’d point out that move is now considered fair game, and I’d now like to see more drivers spin their rivals while they’re lifting off the throttle and claim they had no recourse.
Sadly, the time lost from the spin wrecked Cam’s race, and with Mostert’s good result, he’s now back to 4th in the Championship.
Hazelwood pitted from the lead on Lap 17, but he emerged 4 seconds behind the new effective leader McLaughlin, and he emerged in a huge scrap with Whincup, a scrap that Hazelwood won, at the expense of a lock-up into Turn 2 that left a mark on the tyres.
SVG (On Lap 21) and Mostert (Lap 24) were last of the runners to stop, perfectly timing it with Anton de Pasquale’s race ending when he suffered a front-left suspension failure at Turn 6 on Lap 24, pitching the Erebus Commodore hard into the wall, which also once again revealed the remnants of the Opel badge underneath a Holden Commodore.
That’s exactly what the ZB Commodore will be remembered as.
A goddamn rebadged Opel.
Also, for the first time since the first race of the Darwin round, the Safety Car actually made an appearance in a race, and due to the recovery time in getting Anton’s stricken car away, it set up a mega 9-lap dash to the end.
That Safety Car wrecked a number of drivers – McLaughlin, who lost any cushion he had trying to nurse his tyres home, Hazelwood lost all his momentum charging at McLaughlin, while SVG, who had emerged back in 9th, got the double free kick of having fresher tyres and having the gap wiped out.
When the race restarted on Lap 9, McLaughlin built up a 1 second lead to Hazelwood, but it didn’t last, because Todd was mugged by Whincup and Mostert, who was in turn mugged by the rampaging Gizzy, who had charged up to 3rd within 3 laps of the restart, and got 2nd after Jamie recognised his teammate was a monty to pass Scotty.
Closing up to the leader, Gizzy got a much better run out of Turn 7-8-9 and fired up the inside to take the lead, and in some apparent act of teammwork, he also ran McLaughlin wide, allowing Whincup through to make it a certain Red Bull 1-2.
Nothing in the rules against it, so all we can do is piss and moan.
And that was it – van Gisbergen and Whincup capped off the weekend with Triple 8’s first 1-2 of the season, and the first for any team this year, with McLaughlin doing just enough to hang on to 3rd from Mostert, and Scott Pye, hats off again, CAME FROM 17TH TO 5TH.
Hazelwood and Percat suffered the same fate of so many F1 drivers at Monza – They got screwed by the Safety Car.
Fabian Coulthard finished 8th, but was investigated for passing under the Safety Car, although it seems nothing has come of it, so I can only assume he redressed any position he gained.
Back to Scott Pye, he’s now finished the last 8 races in the Top 10, made up some 50 places across the 6 Townsville races, and has risen up to sit in 11th in the standings.
Obviously that 50 places stat highlights the lack of Qualifying pace for Team 18, but like that fellow that Christians worship, he does his best work on Sundays.
So in all, McLaughlin added 20 points to his championship lead on Whincup, which now stands at 143 points (1834 to 1691), all from that opening race, after the pair cancelled each other out with a 2nd and a 3rd on Sunday.
The fight for 3rd is also looking great – Mostert is back to 3rd on 1390 points, Waters is now 4th on 1369, and Gizzy’s DNF in Race 22 dropped him to 5th on 1357.
The post-race press conference was just as volatile as several of Gizzy’s incidents, as McLaughlin had a whinge about not being able to properly fight Whincup for 2nd, while Jamie fired in a comment about defeating the ‘One Plus One’ teams, specifically referring to DJR-Penske and Fabian Coulthard’s recent performances, especially compared to Scotty.
There’s something we don’t really see in the ATCC anymore – Driver sledging and mind games.
I think Fabs’ struggles are tied into a funny theory Larko had earlier in the day.
The top drivers like Jamie, Shane, Scotty, Cam and Chaz don’t have children, which helps them brake an extra 10-20 metres.
Fabs is married with twin boys, which apparently makes him brake 20m earlier.
Do the math.
NEXT UP: THE BEND IN A FORTNIGHT.