Red Bull Holdens closing the gap on Shell Penske juggernaut
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Red Bull Holden Racing Team is seeing some light at the end of the tunnel in the wake of Jamie Whincup's break-through win at Townsville last week.
Whincup and Kiwi teammate Shane van Gisbergen have played second fiddle to the Shell V-Power Fords of DJR Team Penske Kiwi duo Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard so far this season but the Holden outfit is showing signs of eating into that advantage.
McLaughlin leads the championship but Whincup is now right behind him and van Gisbergen is hoping the improved pace of his teammate will flow on to his car in the coming rounds.
"We are still learning the car this year," the 2016 champ told Radio Sport. "There is quite a big change to the tyres and the way we are going about it.
"Obviously the Fords are very, very fast so we have changed our philosophy to try and get closer to them.
"Us three cars in the Red Bull team [Whincup, Craig Lowndes and van Gisbergen], we're really trying different set-ups and we are always learning and pushing forward.
"It is all part of the racing game.
"The set-up dynamic is a constant circle trying to get the perfect set-up.
"Our car is not quite there at the moment but we are always learning and always trying new things to get faster."
Whincup was more excited than usual after his first win of the season and record-equaling 105th in his career on Sunday at Townsville. While the moment was obviously special for him it is encouragement for the hard work the team has been putting in to try and catch their Ford rivals.
"A massive moment for me - the car was mega," Whincup said. "We have been working pretty hard for a long time.
"On the outside it is all fun and games - we rock up and have some fun but people are dedicating their lives and there are massive sacrifices going on behind the scenes.
"We are not the quickest cars and that's ok if you've never been the quickest because that's fine - you work your way up - but when you've been at the top for a long time, to not have the quickest cars hurts.
"We have had to dig deep, there has been a lot of sacrifice and this is small reward."
And for van Gisbergen, seeing Whincup succeed is reason for encouragement because he will benefit from the data gathered on the other side of the garage.
"They're [Whincup and engineer David Cauchi] doing a great job so hopefully our set-ups start evolving and we can make the best of our two set-ups to make a better car," van Gisbergen explained.
"We both do [benefit from it]. My car was good too but Jamie beat Scotty genuinely so that means we are moving forward."
The next round of the championship is at Red Bull Holden Racing's home track at Ipswich in a fortnight.
- Dale Budge, NZ Herald