The Last race meeting of the year this weekend is at a new track on the calendar in Newcastle New South Wales, some 165 Km north of Sydney and the great showdown between Ford/Holden and their top driver combinations of Mc Laughlin and Wincup. It certainly has been a year of resurgence by Ford with both the Prodrive and DJR Penske teams consistently quick during the middle part of the season and doing so in numbers. The wheels fell off a little at Bathurst where Holden pushed through to win the race and take six of the top ten places. Races since then have served to close the points gap and arrive at a classic year end duel.
There are five contenders with possibility of taking the title with point tallies as follows:
Jamie Wincup Holden 2850
Scott McLaughlin Ford 2820 -30
Fabian Coulthard Ford 2687 -163
Chaz Mostert Ford 2588 -262
Shane van Gisbergen Holden 2574 -276
With 300 points on offer from two races this weekend it would probably require a DNF from both top contenders to let the last two on the list in the door…. highly improbable ….and similarly Coulthard would require a huge shift of fortunes to be in with a chance so…..I think it will be a fight to the flags between Wincup and McLaughlin….Holden vs Ford.
Just a word again on the common sense approach in this form of racing. Points are awarded for all classified finishers, so the system rewards endeavour. The 30 point lead Wincup has is largely due to the fact that despite having to stop running at Bathurst as a result of a valve problem at the ¾ mark, the team were smart enough to get him back out onto the track to complete the last few laps. He was classified as a finisher and bagged 90 points despite being classified 20th.
Another variable to the mix is a new track with no previous history, so race car set-up is going to be a clean sheet affair. The format for racing is a race each on Saturday and Sunday with Qualifying for each and the addition of a top ten shootout on Sunday to determine the final top ten start positions for that race. So far, weather looks hot and clear for Friday to Sunday so, no curved balls on that front…I did say so far.
Must say I have a soft spot for Mclaughlin…he just seems so unaffected by proceedings and does his talking from behind the wheel. His momentous top ten shootout lap at Bathurst shows he has tremendous BMT and because of this, the magnitude of where he finds himself on the charge for his first ever championship win might well be of secondary importance to simply going out there and doing the job.
Wincup is the old fox and a multiple championship winner so he too will be focused on doing the job…its going to be a good one that’s for sure.
Predictions?….I would like McLaughlin to pull it off ….but with all the variables and a 30 point cushion I do think the old Fox may just have enough smarts to do it.
The Tech Men
These lads are going to be working hard in getting the cars set-up for a new track. Ford got the jump on Holden earlier in the year with that magician Lacroix crossing the floor from 888 to DJR Penske. That & the smart strategy by the DJR guys at the Gold Coast tell us that the Penske operation is both technically and strategically on the ball. By the same token I think Red Bull have been given a solid wake-up call and have responded well in the races since then. It is going to be a classic, not only for the two front runners but because the other top contenders, Van Gisbergen, Coulthard and the Prodrive guys are also right on the money.
One final comment has to do with the weight of numbers. This is one of the few seasons in recent times where the majority of top spots are held by Ford and not Holden. On very recent form this is two against five …..The two red bull Holdens against five very quick Fords…this is the final encounter….could we see some inter-team Ford teamwork creeping in to keep those Holdens at bay?.
As always, the run-down will be covered brilliantly by the Supercar site, so I will be sharing as we go along.
Looks to be a Cracker. Paul