After two eventful races at Pukekohe, results of the ITM Auckland SuperSprint have ensured the Supercars season finale is set for a thrilling title showdown.
The lone flyaway event of the year produced some championship changing and shaping action over the two 200km races, spicing up the standings heading in to the final event of the season.
All eyes were on the Kiwis in their home race, looking to perform in front of the devoted Auckland crowd despite some inclement weather which saw qualifying rained out on Saturday.
- Jamie Whincup once again proved why he is the best driver in Supercars history as he extended his championship lead going in to the final two races of the year. A fierce battle with title rival Scott McLaughlin on Saturday would have led to a win had there not been a safety car issue in picking up the pair as leaders. Sunday saw him clean sweep the day with a crucial pole before capitalising on track position to take his third win of the season, giving him a 30 point lead over McLaughlin. The latter part of the season is where Whincup has always been strong and he will be a force to be reckoned with in his bid to win his seventh Supercars title.
- Scott McLaughlin may not have won in front of his home crowd but two podiums have helped his tilt at taking a maiden title after some of his rivals crashed out. The popular young gun fought for a hard earned third place in the first race of the ITM Auckland SuperSprint weekend, engaging in tit-for-tat contact with Whincup and showing he wouldn’t be fazed. The pair again duelled on track in the final race but an over-aggressive strategy meant he had to conserve fuel towards the end, and having to settle for second. Despite heading in to the final round of the season behind on points, his determination to win the championship and qualifying form means he can’t we written off yet.
- Garry Rogers Motorsport may have come to Pukekohe for the first time since the series returned in 2013 without a Kiwi driver but their lineup proved to be consistent if nothing else over the two ITM Auckland SuperSprint races. With James Moffat giving up on a full-time drive next year, he performed strongly in New Zealand with a 13th and ninth placing in the two races respectively. Garth Tander further contributed to the team’s strong championship position, finishing seventh and sixth on Saturday and Sunday. The results mean Garry Rogers Motorsport sits fourth in the teams championship ahead of Erebus Motorsport with one championship round left.
- Fabian Coulthard came in to his home race with a 17 point deficit to Whincup and with the joy of having his twins arrive since the last round on the Gold Coast. Race one didn’t go to plan when he was fighting for spots down the order, ending up tangling with David Reynolds and rolling his #12 DJR Team Penske Falcon with only a handful of laps to go. The retirement leaves his title hopes in tatters but his team performed another great overnight rebuild to get the car back on track for Sunday to collect points and a fifth place in Sunday’s race means he’s now only 176 points away from the championship lead; a big mountain to climb though he is still in mathematical contention despite the gap.
- Cam Waters showed his car’s speed taking pole on Saturday and a podium on Sunday but will be facing a hard debrief when the team gets back to Melbourne. A mistake on Saturday saw him run off the road and lose a swag of positions, dropping points to rivals in the teams championship and costing himself a good result. Sunday was worse when, on the opening lap, he tried to force the issue at the hairpin with team-mates Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert on the outside. Contact saw Mostert spin and Winterbottom stop, taking further damage after being rear-ended by the following pack. While they both salvaged good results and Waters retained his podium finish after a post-race investigation, there will be a long hard chat at the Prodrive headquarters this week.
- Shane van Gisbergen returned to Pukekohe as the reigning series champion and the defending winner of the Jason Richards trophy. His weekend got off to a good start after a balls-up by Supercars on Saturday, giving him the race lead under safety car after slowing down the chasing pack. The win allowed the crowd to watch some trademark burnouts on the front straight, something which his team wasn’t happy with, after shredding the car’s rear tyres and damaging to the surrounding bodywork. Sunday brought him crashing back to Earth after he took himself out of the race, rear-ending Tim Slade at pit entry on lap 16. The damage and subsequent repairs meant he finished 14 laps down, 276 points down on his team-mate going to Newcastle.
Next up is the final round of the season at the brand new Newcastle street circuit; something which will prove a hard but equally rewarding task if any of the top drivers get it right. The first laps of the title showdown will be turned on the 24th of November with the two 250km races happening on Saturday and Sunday.