V8 grunt or F1 gazelles?
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Both specie of racing cars strut their stuff in Melbourne
Old school meets new school at Formula One’s opening round in Melbourne this weekend. On one side of pit lane, the cutting-edge of motorsport technology represented by open wheelers that look like paper darts on steroids; on the other, tintops powered by V8 engines that some manufacturers could trace back to the 1970s.
For Australasian motor racing fans there’s nothing like having the blue riband of the sport in your backyard backed up by a homegrown category. Although not as great as F1, interest in V8 Supercars is growing year on year.
This is the traditional non-points scoring round in the V8 series. If past form is anything to go on, racing with be just as combative as the opening round in Adelaide two weeks ago.
Holding the opening round on the former Australian Grand Prix street circuit has always led to rough and tumble as drivers attempt to gain the upper hand.
It was a good start for three Kiwis with someone on the podium in each race. Fabian Coulthard picked up a third in race one followed by a win in race two; Shane van Gisbergen, signed as a McLaren GT driver this week, had a ding-dong battle with James Courtney to finish second in race three.
“We’ve gone okay at street circuits in the past but never really cracked it,” said Coulthard. “To be able to get a win and come away second in the championship is a good way to start.
“We don’t have many test days this year so to be able to spend time here [Melbourne] and do a bit of testing is good. Quite often here the wheels fall off the wagon for some people and you can see more crashes than at any other circuit.
“It’s important we take a straight car back to the factory at the end of the weekend. We’ll put on a great show, go about our business and be sensible.”
Volvo pilot Scott McLaughlin looked good to challenge for a win from the moment his car was rolled out of the truck. However, he and his team suffered grief and drama — car catching on fire, pit-lane penalties and door-banging.
While there are no points this weekend he does have a point to prove. It shouldn’t be a problem as he’s crossed the line inside the top six in seven of his last eight starts at Albert Park and won the 2014 round.
“As much as you try and forget a bad weekend it still sticks in your mind,” said McLaughlin. “The other bigger problem is that it’s now given all the other blokes a big head start in the championship.
“We need to find a little more car speed and this weekend we’ve got a few things to try to make the car better, and racing is the place to do that. At the end of the day though, I’m just going to race as hard as I can and be taking it pretty seriously.”
Van Gisbergen announced this week he was moving teams next year (Tekno Autosports to Triple Eight Racing). The in-demand Kiwi is concentrating on getting wins under his belt and challenging for the title after finishing second last year.
“You’ve got to keep the car straight at this race because there’s not much time before the next round [Tasmania, March 27-29],” said van Gisbergen. “We really have to make the most of the weekend and try stuff on the car.”
New man on the block, Andrea Heimgartner, survived his baptism in the main game with New Zealand team Super Black Racing. Mainly staying out of trouble, the 19-year-old managed to finish all three races with a relatively straight car.