Holding out for a miracle
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Entering this weekend’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe Park, five drivers have a mathematical chance at winning the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship; Shane van Gisbergen, Chaz Mostert, Scott McLaughlin, Fabian Coulthard, and series leader Jamie Whincup.
The reality, however, is that van Gisbergen is merely clinging on by the skin of his teeth. He’s unlikely to be challenging for the championship at the series finale at Newcastle’s new street circuit unless he performs a miracle this weekend.
Such a feat wouldn’t be without merit, of course. He has won at Pukekohe Park several times, including last year when he became the first Kiwi to win the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy.
But, at more than a race win behind his teammate and series leader Whincup (2580 points, versus SVG’s 2391 points) he will need these key rivals to endure tough races. More to the point, van Gisbergen has also conceded a desire to help Whincup to the crown.
“If I can’t win it, my team-mate has to win it,” he said, just before the last round at the Gold Coast.
“We’ll do everything we can on the No. 97 side of the garage to try and avoid the double-stack and try and give Jamie as much help as we can.
“I won’t be going out holding other guys up and getting in the way, nothing like that, we’ll play it fair for sure, but hopefully we can get a Red Bull car to win it.” Over the fence at Shell V-Power Racing, the once-untouchable Scott McLaughlin has slipped to third by virtue of a disastrous Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, and a problematic opening Gold Coast race.
“The person that is going to win the championship is going to win races. Our win on Sunday at the Gold Coast was massive. It really got us back into the game,” McLaughlin told Herald Sport earlier this week.
“For me it is just attack. It puts me in the right mindset doing what I love to do, trying to drive as fast as I can, and I think that what has got us into this position now.”
His teammate Fabian Coulthard briefly took over the points lead after a come-from-behind podium at Bathurst with co-driver Tony D’Alberto, only to lose it to Whincup at the Gold Coast.
The net result of all these movements is a mere 27-point spread separating the top three drivers.
Flying under the radar in all of these equations is Prodrive Racing’s Chaz Mostert. Sitting in fourth, the 25-year-old is arguably showing his best form since his horrific crash at Bathurst in 2015.
With three wins to his name and the Pirtek Enduro Cup title under his and co-driver Steve Owen’s belts, the Supercheap Auto Falcon is just 126 points adrift.
Of course, Pukekohe Park is a circuit known for conjuring surprise. Not to mention the form of drivers outside the championship equation, including Sandown 500 winner Cameron Waters and Bathurst 1000 winner David Reynolds.