Fabian Coulthard leads Ford Mustang 1-2-3 in Perth night fight
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Shell V-Power Racing has defied the recent parity adjustments made to the Ford Mustang to sweep the first race of the after-dark PIRTEK Perth SuperNight weekend at Barbagallo Raceway — Fabian Coulthard leading home teammate Scott McLaughlin.
On the face of it, it was a relatively straightforward win for Coulthard — his second on the trot. Having started from second, he beat McLaughlin off the line and then proceeded to lead each lap following apart from those during the pit-cycle. He eventually won by 2.2 seconds, in turn closing the gap in the championship to 112 points.
"It’s awesome to win in the dark, all the good sh*t happens after dark," Coulthard said.
“Scotty and I both spoke about [the start] before the start of the race. I was like 'I either need a blinder and get in front of you or you need to get a blinder and I slot in behind you’. Thankfully it went my way. We had a great start, awesome launch and I was able to get the run to one.”
But, behind him, it was to be considered a 'what if' result for McLaughlin in second. He spent most of the race trying to recover from a tardy start (which had dropped him from first to fourth, behind Jamie Whincup and Chaz Mostert).
And, he looked set to do just that. A direct race with Coulthard looked likely, when McLaughlin's side of the DJR Team Penske elected to only pit him for two tyres instead of four while simultaneously trying to 'undercut' the leaders with an earlier stop.
It was a strategy that was set to boost McLaughlin right into the fight for first, but traffic woes (namely with Richie Stanaway and Todd Hazelwood) stunted any chance of him catching up to Coulthard. In the end, a comfortable second was the result.
“I absolutely ballsed that thing up," McLaughlin said of the start.
"But my teammate did a great job, getting another one-two is awesome. I hope the fans enjoyed the night race."
Behind first and second, Mostert took third after getting by a fading Whincup. The seven-time champ struggled in the closing laps with rear-tyre wear problems. Conversely, his teammate Shane van Gisbergen was firing through the grid on much better tyres.
Starting from sixth, van Gisbergen lingered in the bottom half of the top 10 for most of the race. But, a long first stint meant that he was able to attack the home stretch of the race on fresher tyres. He was able to pick off Lee Holdsworth, Cameron Waters, and Nick Percat in quick succession, and Whincup was his next victim in the closing laps.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team initially laid down team orders that Whincup would let van Gisbergen through. But, Whincup retorted over the radio saying that because van Gisbergen wouldn't have a chance to get past Mostert up ahead, that he wouldn't need to be simply let by.
The team agreed, so instead a tense battle ensued between the two Red Bull Commodores in the final laps. Whincup defended just as well as van Gisbergen attacked, with minor paint being swapped. In the end, Whincup prevailed.
Will Davison, on a similar strategy to van Gisbergen, marched through to finish sixth, with Percat, Waters, Holdsworth, and David Reynolds completing the top 10.
Results — PIRTEK Perth SuperNight, Race 11
1. Fabian Coulthard
2. Scott McLaughlin
3. Chaz Mostert
4. Jamie Whincup
5. Shane van Gisbergen
6. Will Davison
7. Nick Percat
8. Cameron Waters
9. Lee Holdsworth
10. David Reynolds
11. Tim Slade
12. Simona De Silvestro
13. Anton de Pasquale
14. James Golding
15. Rick Kelly
16. Scott Pye
17. Andre Heimgartner
18. Mark Winterbottom
19. Garry Jacobson
20. Jack Le Brocq
21. Tim Blanchard
22. Richie Stanaway
23. Todd Hazelwood
24. Macauley Jones
25. James Courtney