DJR sidesteps talk of McLaughlin-De Pasquale parallels

Anton De Pasquale

Shell V-Power Racing Team principal Ben Croke has sidestepped comparisons between Scott McLaughlin and Anton De Pasquale, instead crediting the latter for how he is integrating with the squad.

De Pasquale pulled off what was, in Croke’s words, “almost a perfect weekend” at the Bunnings Trade Sydney SuperNight, at which the 26-year-old prevailed in every session bar one.

That included taking two of his three pole positions by margins of more than half a second, and effectively leading every lap of two of the three 32-lap Repco Supercars Championship races at Sydney Motorsport Park.

The showing was reminiscent of the dominance which McLaughlin often exhibited when he was behind the wheel of one of the Queensland outfit’s red-and-white Fords, and De Pasquale took comparisons with the three-time champion as an endorsement of his own performance.

The two drivers were also of a similar age when they were picked up by Dick Johnson Racing/DJR Team Penske from the squads which helped develop them, and De Pasquale is now also engineered by Ludo Lacroix, as his Kiwi predecessor was.

When the suggestion of McLaughlin vibes was raised with Croke, the DJR leader was quick to shift focus on to the efforts of De Pasquale himself.

“The poor guy gets that comparison all the time,” he told Speedcafe.com.

“He’s doing a really good job and the team around him and everyone that’s involved with this team, whether it’s here at the track [or] in the workshop, we’re just doing a really good job.

“He’s gelled with the team and he’s showing what the car and him are capable of on his own; it’s his own doing.”

De Pasquale had already won for DJR this year, in the second race of The Bend event in May, from his maiden Supercars Championship pole position.

He would score both poles that morning in Tailem Bend, another straight off the bat at Hidden Valley, and a fourth of the season at Townsville, but never before had he put in such a comprehensive performance as at the first Sydney event.

It was also a strong weekend for team-mate Will Davison, who would likely have won Race 21 rather than finishing second had an electrical problem not developed in his #17 Mustang, and who moved up to third in the championship.

Asked whether De Pasquale’s output was due to a broader team gain, him becoming more accustomed to his package in his first year at DJR, or developing his relationship with Lacroix, Croke said, “I think it’s all of that.

De Pasquale on his way to victory in Race 22

“We’ve worked hard in the break that we’ve had, Anton’s worked hard in the break that we’ve had, and it’s just a culmination of the whole thing.

“Will’s chomping on his tail as well; [if] a couple of things went his way, he would have got a race win this weekend as well.”

There were two notable blemishes concerning De Pasquale over the weekend, both of which occurred in Race 21.

Not only did he muff the start and turn pole into seventh position within the first two corners, a fifth at the chequered flag would become a disqualification when it was found that DJR had fitted a tyre from Davison’s allocation to Car #11 in its pit stop.

The error occurred during a tense period as the crew figured out how to address the electrical issue for #17, with further examination of what went wrong to take place during the week.

“[We] haven’t really looked at the hows and whys of it yet,” Croke told Speedcafe.com after Race 22.

“We’ll sit down as a group probably [today], go through that, but the focus at the time was to move on, do a really good job in the next race – we were starting off pole – so just had to keep our focus forward.”

De Pasquale is said to have been just as cool about the mishap as he appeared on television shortly after the sanction was announced, minutes before bouncing back with the Race 22 victory.

“He’s a pretty level guy,” observed Croke.

“He doesn’t show a lot of emotion when he wins and he doesn’t show a lot of emotion when he loses, so he’s very level, so he was fine.

“He’s upset, and the team is more upset than him, but he didn’t lose focus; he went out there and did the job.”

De Pasquale remains sixth in the championship after his 205-point haul at the opening SMP event, including five bonus points for the fastest lap in Race 22.

The season continues with the Armor All Sydney SuperNight from this Saturday, November 6.

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