Gold Coast 600 Recap
After prolonged wet weather on the Gold Coast, teams were relieved to see a clear day dawn for Friday’s opening sessions of the Gold Coast 600. Practice 1 was spent by the Shell V-Power Racing Team tuning for balance, in their first outing on the Surfers street circuit for 2018. All four drivers took part in the session, as they found their feet on the challenging track. The 30-minute Practice 2 was for co-drivers only, with Tony D’Alberto onboard Car No.12 and Alex Premat in Car No.17. Both cars spent time working on both qualifying balance and race pace, with D’Alberto losing a few lap times due to kerb strikes.
The final practice session of the weekend was stopped after seven minutes when Will Davison crashed heavily at Turn 1, causing a red flag. The car was recovered, and the session restarted with no loss of time. McLaughlin traded fastest laps with Van Gisbergen across the remainder of the session, eventually finishing 2nd in the session. Coulthard finished 3rd, showing some good signs for the team.
McLaughlin also took to the street circuit for a demonstration in a Team Penske Ford Fusion NASCAR, previously raced by Joey Logano.
The first session for Supercars on Saturday was qualifying, where the objective for the session was for both cars to progress to the Top 10 Shootout, which was achieved with McLaughlin crossing the line fourth and Coulthard sixth.
In the shootout Scott McLaughlin took his 12th pole of 2018 in the shootout, securing the overall Armor All pole award for the second year running. A solid lap from Fabian Coulthard secured himself and Tony D’Alberto a fourth-place start.
Race 26 would prove to be a challenging one for Shell V-Power Racing Team, with on-track incidents and a lack of safety car periods late in the race forcing the team into a tough fuel strategy. The co-drivers started the race, with Alex Premat in Car 17 off pole, and Tony D’Alberto in Car 12 off p4. Contact between Alex and second placed Paul Dumbrell in Car 1 Holden pushed Car 17 into the wall, dropping Premat from the lead of the race into fifth on lap two. This elevated D’Alberto into second. A lap 22 Safety Car for a crash between Car 99 and Car 56 saw the majority of cars dive into the pit lane. D’Alberto entered first, with the team electing to short-fill Car 12 in order to avoid stacking Car 17. This saw D’Alberto re-join in first place under Safety Car, however needing to max conserve fuel to make it to the second pit stop. Premat slotted back into fifth. Both Red Bull cars were given drive-through penalties for unsafe releases at their first pit stops, which then pushed Premat into fourth.
D’Alberto did an incredible job on the fuel save to get Car 12 to pit lane on lap 56, from second position. Coulthard then climbed onboard, and was fuel saving for the final 46 laps to the flag. Premat continued on until lap 61, with McLaughlin then taking the wheel for the run to the flag. This put McLaughlin in fifth, and Coulthard 10th.
With Coulthard being forced to fuel save throughout his entire final stint, and no caution periods coming, he dropped back to 11th at the flag. McLaughlin finished the race fifth, reclaiming the lead of the Championship with a 14-point buffer to Van Gisbergen.
Coulthard also took to the circuit on Saturday in the Team Penske Shell Pennzoil No.22 NASCAR for a demonstration.
The final day of the Gold Coast 600 dawned overcast but dry, with patches of sun peeking through the clouds. With extremely heavy rain forecast for the afternoon, teams were prepared for a wet 300km race. Ultimately, it would prove to be an anti-climax.
Sunday’s qualifying session was stopped by a red flag after five minutes, with Jack Le Brocq’s Tekno Holden running off circuit and stalling.
At the time, Scott McLaughlin was on a lap that would have seen him go to p1 at that point, until the red flags came out and he had to back off. The session restarted with no loss of time, and the field returned to circuit.
Unfortunately, an engine problem brought Car 12 back into the garage with just over 10 minutes left in the session, with Coulthard yet to set an indicative time. The issue was fixed in time for Coulthard to return to circuit for one final flyer.
McLaughlin went to p2 in his first proper flying laps before returning to the garage for tyres prior to his final outing, and then set a faster time on his final run but remained second and booked himself a place in the shootout.
Coulthard returned to circuit after the engine issue, and managed to qualify 11th, missing the shootout by one position and three-thousandths of a second.
In the Top 10 Shootout, McLaughlin tripped a kerb sensor at the beach chicane, and lost his lap time. As Jamie Whincup and Tim Slade had also tripped kerb sensors, McLaughlin would start the race eighth.
The race started in dry conditions, however under dark and threatening clouds. Alex Premat and Tony D’Alberto started the race, with Premat in Car 17 from eighth and D’Alberto in Car 12 from 11th.
Off the start, Prémat dropped into 9th, with D’Alberto up one position into 10th for first section of the race. Prémat took p8 from David Russell on lap 22, with D’Alberto passing Russell for p9 a lap later.
Rain began to fall around lap 28, with a Safety car called for pile-up in back half of circuit on lap 31, including Paul Dumbrell in Car 1. This moved Premat up to p4, and D’Alberto p5. Both the Shell V-Power cars came to pit lane for wet tyres on lap 32, returning to the circuit under safety car conditions.
Both cars returned to the lane once more on lap 35 for main drivers changes, as the co-drivers had completed their minimum lap requirements.
The weather continued to worsen, and the race was suspended on lap 36 with all cars returning to pit lane.
After a 20-minute delay, the cars returned to track under safety car conditions, before the race was again red flagged on lap 43. With no signs of the weather improving, the race was abandoned, and no points awarded due to not making required distance, leaving McLaughlin continuing in the lead of the Championship by 14 points. Coulthard remains seventh, and the team is second in the Teams’ points.
McLaughlin and Premat finished second in the Pirtek Enduro Cup standings, behind Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards.
COULTHARD QUOTE: “It’s a shame to finish the Pirtek Enduro Cup like that, with the race being declared a non-event due to the weather. We had a good car this weekend, and it would have been great to showcase some of that speed today. Tony did an awesome job again this year across all three races, and the team were excellent as always. Now we head to my home event in Auckland, I can’t wait to get back there.”
MCLAUGHLIN QUOTE: “Our objective this weekend was to close the championship gap, and we’re leaving with the championship lead. It’s a slender lead, but it’s good to have the orange numbers back as we head to my home event in New Zealand. The cars and the team are strong, I love racing at Pukekohe and I’m really excited to head back there. Alex was amazing again this year, helping to get our championship back on track. Finishing second with him in the Pirtek Enduro Cup is great reward, so a big thanks to him.”
D’ALBERTO QUOTE: “It got a bit hairy there at the end of my stint when the rain started coming down while we were still on slicks, but Alex and I worked together and stayed on the road to gain some good position. It was a shame to see the race end like that, with no points awarded but safety needs to come first. It was great to be with Fabian and Shell V-Power Racing Team again this year, it’s fantastic being part of this team.”
PREMAT QUOTE: “It was good to be again with Shell V-Power Racing this year, we have had some good races. Today were tricky conditions, always hard here when it is raining with lots of patches and slippery parts that make it hard to catch the car. Finishing the Pirtek Enduro Cup in second, right behind Lowndes and Richards is great, it is nice to be battling with the best teams and drivers and to finish with a podium.”
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
|2.||Shane van Gisbergen||3354||-14|
TEAMS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
|1.||Triple Eight Race Engineering (Whincup/SVG)||6259|
|2.||Shell V-Power Racing Team||5722||-537|
|3.||Tickford Racing (Mostert/Winterbottom)||4312||-1947|
|4.||Brad Jones Racing||4065||-2194|
|6.||Walkinshaw Andretti United||3973||-2286|
|7.||Nissan Motorsport (Kelly/Heimgartner)||3723||-2536|
|8.||Garry Rogers Motorsport||3152||-3107|
|9.||Triple Eight Race Engineering (Lowndes)||2925||-3334|
|10.||Nissan NISMO (Caruso/De Silvestro)||2669||-3590|