DJR disappointed by low pole-to-win conversion rate
Friday 2nd July, 2021 - 6:00am
Dick Johnson Racing team principal Ben Croke says a one-out-of five conversion rate of pole positions to race wins simply isn’t good enough.
While neighbours Red Bull Ampol Racing have been dominant with nine wins from 14 races to date, the Shell V-Power Racing Team has just one win in 2021.
It’s not for a lack of speed, however. The Stapylton-based team has been quick throughout the five events to date, and is currently on a five-race streak of pole positions, but a range of different reasons have deprived them of trophies.
After an introductory phase in which Will Davison was the team’s only podium-getter from the first two events, he and team-mate Anton De Pasquale began to hit their stride come the third in Tasmania.
Davison and De Pasquale each scored two podium finishes at Symmons Plains before the first breakthrough pole position and win in Race 10 for De Pasquale at The Bend in May.
De Pasquale’s hopes of a second win from pole position at the Tailem Bend track were dashed however in Race 11 when he suffered an engine issue.
He then had his second successive retirement from pole position when he was caught in the first lap melee at Hidden Valley in which he was spun and collected, ending Race 12 early.
After a woeful Saturday in Darwin saw Davison qualifying down the back, he recovered on Sunday with two pole positions for Races 13 and 14.
Again, neither would be converted as Shane van Gisbergen got the holeshot in each instance to bring his 2021 win tally to eight.
It’s in stark contrast to the success that the team formerly known as DJR Team Penske has had in the past three title-winning campaigns with Scott McLaughlin.
Between 2018 and 2020, he had five, 10, and eight wins after 14 races in each of the three campaigns.
“One out of five is not a great strike rate,” Croke told Speedcafe.com.
“We probably just didn’t execute everything at 100 percent like you need to to beat Shane at the moment.
“We were just off one or two percent in a couple of areas. That’s all it took for him to capitalise and win the day.
“I think it showed, whoever got to Turn 1 first was probably going to win. We just didn’t do that. The qualifying speed is there, we’ve just got to convert and execute.
“We’ve had engine problems on Anton’s car when he was in the lead and a couple of other bits and pieces, little things like that that are letting us down.
“We’ll tidy up a few of those and we’ve proved over the last four or five years when you have a bit of a rough patch, we’ve got the runs on the board.
“We’ll sharpen our pencils. We’ll work hard. There’s no doubt we can start collecting and converting those pole positions.”
De Pasquale was twice blighted by pit stop issues in Darwin, one of his own making as he stalled and the other through no fault of his when a button popped out of a rattle gun.
Croke said it’s out of character for the team to have pit stop problems.
“We had a problem with a gun, which is something that’s not us,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on our pit lane stuff. It’s been a strength of ours for years so that’s really disappointing to have a problem like that.
“The other one, Anton stalled. It’s just little bits and pieces over the weekend that let us down.”
Nevertheless, Croke is confident that if it can iron out the creases and make the most of those pole positions, wins will come.
“I think we’ve shown with five poles in a row that the speed is there and everything is gelling,” he said.
“We’re working out what the guys need from the cars. In terms of new drivers, I think we’re past that. I think it’s just a bit of race craft, execution, and a couple of things like that.
“From Will turning it around on Saturday where we had a moment in qualifying to two poles and two P2s on Sunday, it’s not a bad day.
“We had obviously liked to have converted one of those into a win, but we still finished up there.”
The team’s next outing is slated to take place at the Reid Park Street Circuit across July 9-11 at the NTI Townsville 500.