Sandown 500 Recap
Friday’s opening session for the Sandown 500 was for Co-Drivers only, which saw Tony D’Alberto in Car No.12 and Alex Premat in Car No.17. They both worked on race pace, running the longest stints of any cars out on track in the session with Premat driving 21 laps and D’Alberto 22 laps. Practice 2 saw Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin have their first runs of the weekend. Held in windy conditions, the circuit also provided some unusual grip characteristics thanks to an epoxy sealant that had been applied to the surface prior to the beginning of the event. Chassis set-up continued in the challenging conditions, ahead of Practice 3. The final session was another Co-Driver only session. Work continued on the car set-up with Car No. 12 doing single-lap runs, and Car No. 17 focusing on race runs.
The opening Race for the Grid saw changeable weather conditions and difficult strategy decisions for teams. After starting from 12th (Tony D'Alberto) and 14th (Alex Premat), a caution period came early in the race, lasting six laps when car No.18 hit the wall on the main straight. Alex had climbed to p10 and Tony p11 by that point. After the restart on lap 10, a brief burst of rain and hail caused several teams to pit for wet tyres. Shell V-Power Racing Team engineers made the call to keep Alex and Tony out on dry tyres. It was an inspired call, which vaulted the two Shell Fords into third and fourth on the road. That meant Scott McLaughlin would start Race for the Grid 2 from third, and Fabian Coulthard from fourth.
The second Race for the Grid 2 (RFTG2) was a relatively uneventful race for Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin. After RFTG1, where Alex Premat and Tony D’Alberto made great strides forward, RFTG2 saw Scott and Fabian starting side-by-side on the second row of the grid. They both got a strong start, and jumped into second and third positions behind David Reynolds for the first few laps. A caution period on lap four was triggered by a big crash for James Courtney at Sandown’s infamous turn six. After four laps of clean-up and recovery, the race re-started on lap eight. A fast moving Jamie Whincup took advantage of the straight line speed of his ZB Commodore to pass cars and latch onto the rear bumper of Fabian. He passed Fabian into the high-speed turn six, and then passed Scott at turn one a lap later. That relegated Scott and Fabian back to their starting positions.
The Sandown 500 saw Cars 12 and 17 starting from the second row of the grid after strong qualifying races yesterday. Co-drivers Alex Premat and Tony D’Alberto started and ran the first two stints of the race, to cover their mandated one-third race distance. They handed their cars to main drivers Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard in the same positions as they started, and with over 100 laps left to run it was up to Scott and Fabian to get them to the flag. Following the second pit stops Fabian was sitting in third and Scott fifth. Shane van Gisbergen’s Triple Eight Holden was splitting them, until he was able to use the straight-line speed advantage that was apparent all weekend to go by Fabian and push him back to fourth.
Both cars took fuel, tyres and brake pads at their third service and then settled into fifth (No. 17) and 10th (No. 12). Scott was able to affect a pass on Rick Kelly to take fourth position on lap 115, and then he had the job of attempting to chase down the leading trio of Whincup, Van Gisbergen and Lowndes ahead of him. Final stops came and went, with Car 12 stopping on lap 123 and Car 17 on lap 126. Following final stops, the race settled into a rhythm with both drivers pushing hard, but unable to make any inroads on the Holdens ahead of them. Scott battled with the Erebus Holden of David Reynolds late in the race, holding him off to take a well-earned fourth place, and first Ford home. Fabian was seventh, and second Ford home. Scott remains second in the Drivers points, 55 points behind Van Gisbergen. Fabian remains sixth. The team remains second in the Teams’ points, as we head to the next event in the season – the Bathurst 1000.
COULTHARD QUOTE: “It was a challenging day. We have to run so little wing angle to compete with those guys, which helps us on the straights but makes it difficult in other areas. That’s the hand we’ve been dealt at the moment. We’ve got smart guys, and I’m sure we’ll get on top of it. Hopefully we can find something before we go to Bathurst where we’ll need some strong pace. TD did a great job. To have both of our cars to be the first Fords is a real credit to our team.”
D’ALBERTO QUOTE: “I was pretty happy with my stints in the opening part of the race. We had reasonable pace compared to the guys in front of us, and we were faster than everyone behind us. That was pretty satisfying. Overall though we’re lacking a bit of pace this weekend. Given that, finishing seventh is still a great result.”
MCLAUGHLIN QUOTE: “We had to go above and beyond with our set-up this weekend to try to combat the pace of the Holdens. We tried things all weekend, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. We definitely improved over the weekend, and our race pace was much better than it had been all weekend, but we still had a deficit, especially in a straight line. Alex did a great job in his stints, and we were the best of the rest, and getting fourth was a great result in the end. We were aiming for a top-five, and that’s what we came away with. Next is Bathurst. I love that place and I’m really looking forward to it.”
PRÉMAT QUOTE: “On average, I would say that we have to be pretty happy with the weekend. We did the best we could with what we had, and to be the first car behind those Triple Eight guys is very good. Credit to the team, as they have worked really hard after The Bend and put together a great car for us, and no mistakes in the race. We were missing some pace for sure, with the speed of the Holdens in a straight line. The combination of Scott and I is really good and working well. Certainly, there are some questions coming from this weekend, but the team will work really hard to give us the best car possible so we can compete at Bathurst.”
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
|1.||Shane Van Gisbergen||3054|
TEAMS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
|1.||Triple Eight Race Engineering (Whincup/SVG)||5770|
|2.||Shell V-Power Racing Team||5113||-657|
|4.||Tickford Racing (Mostert/Winterbottom)||3688||-2082|
|5.||Brad Jones Racing||3621||-2149|
|6.||Walkinshaw Andretti United||3502||-2268|
|7.||Nissan Motorsport (Kelly/Heimgartner)||3378||-2392|
|8.||Garry Rogers Motorsport||2651||-3119|
|9.||Triple Eight Race Engineering (Lowndes)||2487||-3283|
|10.||NISMO (Caruso/De Silvestro)||2456||-3314|