Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver Jamie Whincup has increased his hopes of a record-extending seventh championship title after winning the Jason Richards Memorial trophy for a second time this weekend at Pukekohe.
The 34-year old Victorian rained on the vocally strong Kiwi parade with raw speed and consistency. Never once did Whincup finish outside the top three in a session including victory in Sunday’s 200km race.
However his team mate Shane van Gisbergen went from hero to zero. After an inspiring win in Saturdays race, championship hopes evaporated the following day when he failed to arrest enough speed heading into pitlane to avoid ploughing into the back of Tim Slade’s Commodore.
Another Kiwi who’s name we can virtually cross out from the title chase is Fabian Coulthard. His misfortune at Pukekohe over the years continued when he was bumped by David Reynolds after the former was baulked by Chaz Mostert. The resulting fraccas saw the Shell V-power car roll over near, however a strong fifth place on Sunday helped salvage something from the weekend.
Ford team mate Scott McLaughlin recorded fourth and second place finishes over the weekend as he kept alive his dream of becoming a Supercars champion. A crowd favourite, McLaughlin put on a fine display of motor racing and was glued to Jamie Whincup for the majority off the weekend.
Chaz Mostert had a poor weekend. After causing the melee with Coulthard and Reynolds on Saturday, things got even worse on the Sunday, when he was tagged and turned around by his team mate mate Mark Winterbottom – who in turn was hit by a third team mate in Cam Waters. Needless to say, things were a little frosty post race in the Prodrive Racing Australia camp.
Other stand outs were James Moffat, who is currently searching for a gig in 2018 (9th on Sunday) Jason Bright (5th on Saturday) and Aaron Russell (pictured, up a combined 10 spots during both 200km races)
The series now heads to a brand new street circuit held at the beachside in Newcastle. And with a slender 30 points margin from Whincup to McLaughlin and three others still in the mathematical equation, it makes for an enthralling battle.
If Whincup can finish second in both the remaining races, he will become the champion. New Zealand’s hopes remain firmly in Scott McLaughlin’s camp. The Newcastle event is scheduled for a fortnights time.