Standouts, Shockers, Surprises: Townsville 500
Wednesday 14th July, 2021 - 4:57pm
Townsville turned up the heat for Supercars’ return to north Queensland, giving fans their first dose of 250km racing since the season opener.
In this edition of Standouts, Shockers, Surprises, we look at all the big talking points from the Townsville 500.
BJR boys show mettle
It must be said that while the end results weren’t spectacular, Brad Jones Racing showed its mettle in Townsville.
Nick Percat preserved through dehydration on Saturday to claim a standout fourth and was starved of a “guaranteed” podium when his power steering failed on Sunday.
Needing to perform, Todd Hazelwood bounced back from a sub-par Saturday where he finished 22nd in Race 15 due to a power steering issue, breaking into the Top 10 Shootout and qualifying a stellar third for Race 16.
He would go on to finish seventh.
Not far behind the leading pair was Macauley Jones, who narrowly missed out on a top 10 shootout berth, qualifying 11th on Sunday.
Finishes of 16th and 14th weren’t necessarily representative of his speed, the latter result a solid comeback drive after being spun out on Lap 1.
Finishes of sixth and eighth in Townsville marked the best haul of points this season for Tim Slade and the Blanchard Racing Team.
After effectively missing the first round of the championship due to that mammoth crash at Mount Panorama, Slade was bogged at the bottom of the standings.
Since then, the #3 Ford Mustang has clawed its way to 17th in the drivers’ championship.
The standout performance of the weekend was Slade’s second place qualifying effort to get him into the shootout for Race 15.
The team has yet to find itself on the front row since the opening round, but don’t count them out for a podium by the end of the year.
Red Bulls fly
Banyo’s best haven’t featured in this list for a few editions, mostly because we’ve become accustomed to their presence at the front of the field.
However, the team was truly dominant on the streets of Townsville, sweeping every session bar one in not just Supercars but Super2 as well.
Shane van Gisbergen was beaten off the line in Race 15 and 16 by team-mate Jamie Whincup but in both instances came from behind to win.
Meanwhile, Broc Feeney was a dominant force in Super2 and was largely unchallenged in his back-to-back wins.
Triple Eight Race Engineering runaway
While Triple Eight Race Engineering’s form is not unexpected, the sheer margin by which the team won by should be of concern.
Van Gisbergen was some four tenths faster than the nearest Ford of Will Davison in the Top 10 Shootout while his advantage in Race 15 was some 37 seconds to third place Anton De Pasquale.
Such was van Gisbergen’s speed that he lapped everyone up to seventh place, even putting Cameron Waters down a lap – someone who the Kiwi said was among his nearest rivals.
Winning margins that large weren’t even seen in the record breaking 2019 season that McLaughlin claimed 18 wins.
Perhaps surprisingly, there was very little chatter of parity in the pit lane.
After last year’s heroics that saw Scott Pye finish all six races in the top 10 at Townsville, that streak came to an abrupt end when he suffered a steering failure in Race 15.
Race 16 saw Pye mired in the Lap 1 melee, finishing a lowly 21st.
Team-mate Mark Winterbottom recorded finishes of 10th and 16th but never looked like he’d threaten the front runners having qualified outside the top 20 on both occasions.
It was a weekend that stood in stark contrast to the Darwin Triple Crown where both drivers looked like possible podium contenders, Winterbottom even eyeing a win at one point.
Simply, the raw speed they had previously enjoyed was not there.
After being one of van Gisbergen’s nearest rivals in Darwin, Chaz Mostert had arguably the worst weekend at the wheel this year.
Finishes of 14th and ninth were all he could muster in the high points-paying races.
Walkinshaw Andretti United team-mate Bryce Fullwood out-qualified Mostert for the first time all season, the pair languishing in 16th and 17th respectively for Race 15
Qualifying for Race 16 saw them improve, albeit only to 12th for Mostert and 13th for Fullwood.
It marked the first round since Sandown that Mostert hadn’t seen the podium in what has, by and large, been a fruitful second season with WAU.
Team Sydney (via Gold Coast)
Turning up to Townsville with both its cars still sporting the scars of the drama in Darwin wasn’t a great look for Team Sydney.
That, according to team boss Jonathon Webb, was down to the team not being able to access its spare parts cache at its home base in Sydney, which, as it stands, is still in lockdown.
With the state in lockdown, Webb has opted to base the operation temporarily out of its Yatala headquarters.
Despite being customers of Triple Eight Race Engineering, currently the best team in pit lane, Team Sydney couldn’t get its cars to fire.
Fabian Coulthard and Garry Jacobson were pegged to the bottom of the order in Saturday’s qualifying and weren’t much better come Sunday.
Power steering problems continue to plague Jacobson, who has suffered since the start of the season.
Bring the Payne
The one-make Porsche Carrera Cup Series is notoriously hard to pass in, owing to the nature of the cars and high quality competition.
However, young New Zealander Matthew Payne showed that passing on the tight and twisty Reid Park Street Circuit can be done.
Payne put his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car on pole position for the first race of the weekend then promptly undid all his hard work by stalling.
Falling to last, the youngster came through to 10th by the end of the race. With a progressive grid, the Kiwi started where he left off in the second race, charging through to third in the finale.
By the weekend’s close, Payne eased to victory, beating Cooper Murray and Aaron Love.
What’s most surprising about the 18-year-old is that this is just his first year racing cars and only his second series after winning this year’s three-round Castrol Toyota Racing Series.
Keep an eye on the Kiwi.
KGR come good
The Reid Park Street Circuit has not been a venue Kelly Grove Racing has typically performed well at.
Until last weekend, the team had never taken a top five finish in Townsville. David Reynolds ended that streak for the Braeside based team, claiming fifth in Race 15.
A second straight top five finish might have been on for Reynolds had he not suffered a bearing issue.
It was a strong showing by all accounts and in stark contrast to the Darwin Triple Crown where the pair locked out the back row.