A visit to a Triple Eight happy hunting ground at Townsville is as good a time as any to break Shell V-Power Racing’s victory streak, according to Mark Dutton.
The Red Bull Holden squad has scored just one win this season through Shane van Gisbergen at Symmons Plains in April.
Since that triumph, which is the only win for Holden this year, DJR Team Penske has dominated the series with a run of eight straight victories split six-two to Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard respectively.
This weekend sees Triple Eight head to Townsville’s Reid Park Circuit, a venue at which it has taken 12 wins from 21 races, including 10 for Jamie Whincup and a clean sweep for the outfit last year.
The team has only failed to record a wins at the 2013 and 2015 editions of the North Queensland event.
Given its past successes coupled with incremental improvements in race trim displayed in previous rounds, the squad heads Townsville believing the track could offer chance to break its winless drought.
However, Triple Eight team manager Dutton is not underestimating the challenge that will come from the Shell-backed Ford Mustangs.
“We’re feeling confident. We think we’ve found some extra race pace, above and beyond what we’d had earlier in the year, at Darwin,” Dutton told Speedcafe.com.
“Townsville is a very different track, but still hopefully we can carry that on, and we just need to do a better job of qualifying.
“In the past, we’ve been strong at Townsville so there’s no reason to think we shouldn’t be (this year), so we’re making sure that we achieve what we set out to.
“We saw at the start of the year we were quite strong at (Adelaide), and curby street tracks, it’s as good a time as any (to break the DJR Team Penske stronghold), partly because we’ve been making some incremental gains, and then also on top of that, the kerby nature of it, although it still has some classic race car corners, it’s not a full-spec street track.
“It is a bit of a hybrid (circuit), so they’ll (DJR Team Penske) be strong.
“They’re strong at street tracks, let alone full race track specs, so definitely not underestimating the challenge ahead.
“We definitely can’t be complacent at all, because in Darwin we’ve had lots of success there recently as well, so we were disappointed not to be on the podium at Darwin.
“We can be challenging for race wins. We just need to make sure that we’re executing as best we can.
“It’s not really playing on your mind as such, but for sure, you miss the wins. That’s what we’re here for. We play this game to win, so yeah, we’re missing them.”
Triple Eight’s Achilles heel in recent rounds has been its one lap pace with both van Gisbergen and Whincup qualifying inside the top five on six occasions respectively from the 16 races to date.
Dutton believes the team has made some progress in this department hading into Townsville.
“Definitely the focus (has been) to tune that up, however, you never know until you’re actually there in qualifying,” he added.
“Obviously you get a good indication in practice, but we can do all the theoretical work here at the workshop, which you have to do; it’s not ’til you hit the track (that you see where you are).
“We’re not the only ones working hard to try and go fast, everyone is, so the level that you need to achieve is constantly moving.
“We are working very hard to make sure that we do improve qualifying.”
This weekend will see Triple Eight operating at maximum capacity with its Supercars and Super2 teams in action at Townsville, while its GT arm is racing in the latest round of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia at Japan’s Fuji Speedway.
The latter will see team owner Roland Dane absent from the Townsville paddock.
“With RD (Roland Dane), we still stay in contact during the race weekends of course. We’ve done rounds without him before, but definitely we’re in communication,” said Dutton.
“It doesn’t change what we’re trying to achieve, but it is a bit harder without him there, because he’s obviously very knowledgeable, and an asset to the team.”
The Watpac Townsville 400 begins on Friday with opening practice scheduled for 1055 AEST.