It’s a welcome relief to most Supercars teams to be able to head north into the tropics for the Darwin Triple Crown in the middle of winter.
This year was no different, as Shell V-Power Racing Team’s Queensland base was being hit with the coldest June temperatures on record.
On-track action began on Friday in hot and humid conditions, with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard rolling out for opening practice. They were on the pace early, and battled through as temperatures reached 32 degrees Celsius. Both Shell V-Power Fords were fast, with Scott setting the fastest lap of the day. An issue was later found in the rear end of Fabian’s car, but he still ran a solid time to finish the day eighth.
Saturday’s race 15 saw contrasting fortunes for Scott and Fabian. Starting second, Scott settled into the second position for the opening stint of the race behind polesitter David Reynolds. The pit stops started on lap six, with Scott taking his first stop on lap seven. The team changed right side tyres only, with Scott emerging as the effective leader in front of Nissan’s Rick Kelly. Scott was challenged late in the race by Shane van Gisbergen, who pitted on lap 20 and was using much fresher tyres to charge through the pack. He got within half a second of Scott by lap 33, but good driving saw Scott hold him off to take the team’s 100th all-time victory.
Fabian’s race saw him start 14th after an issue in qualifying. He got up to 10th position on lap one, and continued to push through the pack, pitting from fifth on lap 12, rejoining in 18th. He was back into 14th place late in the race, however as he began to struggle with tyre life, those who stopped late were able to push past Fabian to see the no.12 driver finish 15th.
Sunday’s race 16 started well for Shell V-Power Racing Team, with both Scott and Fabian getting off the line strongly on the long chute down to turn one. Scott settled into third place for the opening stint, with Fabian up one spot to seventh. The opening stint was longer than Saturday’s, with Scott pitting on lap 21 and re-joining p13 in effective fifth place on the road. In-car cameras showed that Scott’s cooling fan air hose had disconnected from his helmet, in a 68-degree Celsius cabin. Adding to the issues, car no.17 started to blow smoke around lap 30, with oil temps rising to cause oil surge/blow-by in the engine. Car no.17 engineer, Ludo Lacroix, coached Scott to ensure that he got cooling air into the engine on the straight across each lap, and the problem was managed as temperatures came back under control.
A lap 55 safety car bunched the field back up, however on the restart it was status quo at the front as Reynolds pulled away from Scott, who continued to manage his engine issue whilst defending from Jamie Whincup behind him.
Scott maintained position, and took a hard-earned second place for his second podium of the weekend, to extend his championship lead to 161 points.
Fabian was mid-pack after his first stop, and then made a series of moves to get through the field passing several cars to get himself back to 8th position. He was under some pressure late in the race, but held the spot to finish where he started.
Fabian maintains seventh place in the points, whilst the team continues to lead the teams’ championship by 48 points over Triple Eight Race Engineering.