Kiwis dominate at Winton 400

Posted in News

The Kiwis took out race seven at Winton raceway with Fabian Coulthard taking first and Shane Van Gisbergen standing right beside him on the podium. Coulthard was out in front on the first turn and the Lockwood racing driver remained there the entire race. Robert Dahlgren had a short trip on the track, heading straight back into pit lane after the warm-up with a mechanical issue, and it was Coulthard, Van Gisbergen, and Lowndes leading the charge on lap one.

Volvo was again in the pits within the first 10 laps, with McLaughlin rushing into his garage having some problems. Lap 10 and the top three hadn’t changed and we then saw McLaughlin scream back onto the track, hunting for the lead with Davison also dropping a spot to frosty on T11.

Safety car number one was deployed after McLaughlin came off the circuit, forcing him to shut his S60 down and rendering him out of race 7 of the championship. A race restart was commenced on lap 20, only to be halted again by another safety car after a multi car incident on T2, with Percat and Reynolds also having contact at T7.

The safety car lights were out once again and we restarted race seven for a second time on lap 23. It looked like it would never get back on track with Todd Kelly having an incident, becoming stopped on the track and causing a third safety car. Following the final race restart, Ingall, driving like he was possessed made a move, gaining third position and was looking good for a podium finish, only to be hindered by a controversial PLP for a bump with Dale Wood. With Ingall dropped back to 15th position and out of contention, it left the field clear for Fabian Coulthard to bring it home with a race win for Lockwood racing alongside fellow Kiwi, Shane Van Gisbergen in second, and Dale wood also gained his first podium, coming in third.

Race eight looked to be taken out by another Kiwi with young gun Scott McLaughlin giving it some jandal, taking first position after the first two corners. Lap five and Scott was still leading the pack, followed by Coulthard and Holdsworth in the Erebus Mercedes. Coulthard was mounting more and more pressure on the Volvo driver as they ripped around the track before McLaughlin had a battery issue and was called back to the pits by the Volvo team. The forced pit stop was a devastating blow to what was almost certainly going to be a first race win for the Volvo GRM driver. Scott was reduced to tears and gave the thumbs up from his pit garage but was able to get back on the track and finish the race in last place. Battling for fourth position, Frosty finally got by Van Gisbergen, with the VIP Pet Foods VF struggling for grip around the circuit.

Betty Klimenko from Erebus Motorsport was getting very nervous with Lee Holdsworth right on the tail of Coulthard for several laps approaching the end of race eight, raising hopes of the first Erebus win ever and with Coulthard locking into T1/2, the battle for the top was heating up.

With five laps remaining, Holdsworth was still looking for a passing opportunity, holding second behind Coulthard and ahead of Reynolds. With a scream from Betty and the Erebus garage, Holdsworth found that opportunity and took first position, as well as Frosty taking up second spot on the podium. The final lap of race eight saw Holdsworth come in first making it a historic win for the Mercedes team, with Klimenko, Holdsworth and the team being overjoyed with excitement. “What that boy’s gone through – and he’s just picked it up and gone who gives a crapola about last year, I’m going to go forward and do this. He is an amazing driver,” said Betty, as the much-loved crowd favourite became emotional during an interview on the grid, post race. The win for the Erebus team and the previous race seven win by Fabian Coulthard has made it an interesting weekend of racing at the Winton 400, giving fans a break from the Red Bull Holden’s being at the top and mixing up the field for some exciting, tense V8 racing

The last race of the weekend was another devastating one for Volvo GRM racing, with Scott McLaughlin losing a commanding lead due to poor grip around the track, despite extremely good previous form. The green lights were out and Winterbottom was out to a good start but McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen covered him well into T1. Lap one was complete and McLaughlin was out to a 1.5s lead, with Van Gisbergen and Winterbottom trailing.

Van Gisbergen had another disaster, losing grip and having problems with the VF’s roll bar for a second time this weekend. The issue left him helpless, and he lost several grid positions, falling to sixth and allowing Winterbottom to surge towards the S60 Volvo. Jason Bright wasn’t messing around, racing hard and giving fellow BJR driver, Dale Wood a tap on the bumper, forcing him off the road, and the lap 10 leaders were much the same as previously with McLaughlin in first, Winterbottom in second and James Courtney in third.

Less than 20 laps in and the gap between McLaughlin and Winterbottom was becoming shorter and shorter. The FPR was looking as though it had more speed and grip around corners and was right in the bumper of the S60. Lap 20 and Winterbottom got the job done, taking the lead for race nine and pushing the kiwi back in the pack. Black flags were flying with Rick Kelly receiving a PLP for pit lane speeding, followed by Winterbottom and McLaughlin pitting from the lead of race nine, less than 25 laps into the 67-lap race. With McLaughlin and Winterbottom re-joining the circuit, McLaughlin was back down to fifth, being caught by Tim Slade in the Supercheap Auto Holden.

Lap 30’s leaders were Winterbottom, Slade, and McLaughlin, however it didn’t stay like that for long with McLaughlin receiving a PLP for pit lane speeding. Robert Dahlgren, Russell Ingall, and Fabian Coulthard were the next drivers to be pinged by the black flags; making it an unusual 5 PLPs for speeding in pit lane, no doubt aggravating already annoyed Ingall. With 13 laps remaining, it was still Frosty in the lead and on his tail was James Courtney, and Tim Slade in third position.

It was looking like a battle for second until Slade had a slight off but managed to stay solid. Winterbottom had built a nine-second lead on the Courtney HRT VF and brought it home at his test track for all the FPR fans around the Winton campgrounds and Australia. He took a win on Sunday last year and has done it again this year, claiming first position in race nine at the Winton 400. New Zealand soil is the next destination for the V8s with the Auckland ITM 500 coming up on ANZAC weekend in a few weeks time. All eyes will be on the Kiwis and none other than youngster Scott McLaughlin to see if they can take a win at home in the race for national pride.