DJR Team Penske mandates face masks at SMP

Fabian Coulthard wearing a 3M protective mask

DJR Team Penske has instructed its skeleton crew to wear face masks at Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend.

Like every other team in the pit lane, the Yatala-based outfit will be down to an essential crew of 13 people per two-car operation including its two drivers Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard.

Earlier this month acquired Supercars’ Return to Racing document, which outlined its coronavirus mitigation strategy for the BP Ultimate Sydney SuperSprint.

As of June 10, face masks were not compulsory for teams and drivers. However, the likes of DJR Team Penske have mandated the use of the masks following direction from the United States.

In the latest Scott’s Corner column, McLaughlin said he’s anticipating a different atmosphere at Sydney Motorsport Park without crowds and unfamiliar surroundings.

“There’s obviously no fans which will be bizarre,” he wrote.

“I’ve watched both codes of the footy religiously these past few weeks and it just feels so flat with no one in the stands.

“I know motorsport is different, but to have no one outside the back of the pits will make it lonely

“And the pits themselves will be different.

“Our garages will be so bare with no sponsor boardings.

“We’ve all been instructed to wear face masks at all times.

“And even the crew is at a bare minimum – we have no corporate staff, no PR staff, no marketing people.

“There’s just eleven others in the shed, so it’ll honestly feel like a test day in parts.”

McLaughlin said preparations leading into Sydney Motorsport Park have been unlike anything he’s used to.

The two-time Virgin Australia Supercars Championship winner currently leads the standings after a win and a second place finish at the season-opening Adelaide 500.

The Shell V-Power Racing Team pilot holds a 27-point advantage over Jamie Whincup of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team.

This weekend’s BP Ultimate Sydney SuperSprint will be the first event in three months for Supercars since the ill-fated Melbourne 400.

“It still doesn’t feel like race week,” wrote McLaughlin.

“I mean I know the cars were loaded today (Thursday) and are on their way south to Sydney as we speak – but the fact I’m still on my couch makes this the strangest preparation for a Supercar event I’ve ever had.

“Normally I’ll have arrived three or four days before now for a week of corporate functions, sponsorship appearances and media commitments.

“Instead this week there’s been a few interviews over the phone, a couple of zoom meetings, and we’ll head to the airport tomorrow – the day before racing starts.

“It’ll hit home on the track walk which will take place with face mask and social distancing, and with a skeleton crew from DJR Team Penske.

“The whole weekend will be weird. I’m fascinated by what it will be like. We all are. But I must say I’m just so damn pleased to be back racing.”

During the break, McLaughlin has put greater emphasis on his training regime and weight loss programme in an effort to be fit enough to eventually race in the IndyCar Series.

McLaughlin has also been among the Supercars drivers using go karts to train before getting back into his race car.

The 27-year-old recently tested at the Gold Coast Motorsport Training Centre with seven-time Supercars champion Whincup and two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner.

“Since the victory on Sunday in February in Round 1 I’ve lost over 10 kilograms and I am without a doubt the fittest I’ve ever been,” McLaughlin continued.

“I worked my backside off these past three months while we suffered through the pandemic to be at the top of my game when racing resumed – so I’m hoping we can be right on the pace.

“You all know I’ve done a million miles of Eseries racing during the time off, but this past fortnight I’ve really ramped up my go-karting – which has my eye in.

“It’s a great way to blow the cobwebs out spending a day holding on to the kart – you wake up sore as hell the next morning, but it’s all worth it.”

Rookie Practice at the BP Ultimate Sydney SuperSprint gets underway tomorrow at 10:20 AEST.

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