Triple Eight needs to ‘dig deep’ to match DJR pace

Shane van Gisbergen (#97) and Jamie Whincup (#88)

Red Bull Ampol Racing needs to “dig deep” in order to catch the Shell V-Power Racing Team at Sydney Motorsport Park, says team manager Mark Dutton.

While Shane van Gisbergen unofficially won the Bunnings Trade Sydney SuperNight as a whole event, and Triple Eight Race Engineering extended its lead in the teams’ championship, they were outdone for pace by the Dick Johnson Racing Mustangs.

There was, in fact, an element of fortune in those two achievements, given neither would have occurred had Anton De Pasquale not been disqualified from Race 21, in which he took the chequered flag in fifth, due to a tyre bungle.

De Pasquale would otherwise have been the weekend’s highest points-scorer given he won Races 20 and 22, and scooped all three pole positions, two by margins of more than half a second and the other by just under 0.4s.

Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton described the weekend as “solid” given van Gisbergen’s points haul, but was under no illusions about the squad’s raw pace.

“We’re definitely not going to be over the moon with the weekend,” he told Speedcafe.com.

“You’re always happy when you win it – that obviously shows the consistency of the team, and the depth, which is good – but, for sure, not having the qualifying pace by that margin is definitely not something that we can sleep easy with, so we’ll have to work hard and dig deep.

“The car ran really well [and] there weren’t any mechanical issues, so all the prep work, everything leading into the weekend was good; we just need to work on car pace.

“It’s eluded us here for a couple of times in a row now, ultimate car pace.”

Van Gisbergen also passed a significant threshold in the first Sydney Motorsport Park event, ahead of three more at Eastern Creek and then the Repco Bathurst 1000 to complete the season.

The 2016 champion is now 338 points clear of team-mate Jamie Whincup at the top of the drivers’ standings, more than the 315 on offer at each of the following two Sydney sprint events and the 300 at each of the events which follow those.

Will Davison is the closest driver from any other squad at 463 points off the pace, and his DJR outfit is similarly next-best in the teams’ championship, at a slightly enlarged 872-point deficit relative to the start of the weekend.

Asked if van Gisbergen’s advantage changes anything, Dutton responded, “No, not yet.

“As we just said, the fact that we really weren’t happy with our quali pace and ultimate pace this weekend, you definitely can’t button off, you can’t rest.

“As soon as you do, that’s when you can start getting mixed up in some of the battles that you shouldn’t be; if you’re mid-pack, or rear of the pack.

“Around here, it’s easy to put a little bit of a foot wrong and all of a sudden, you’re qualifying outside the 10 – which, luckily, we didn’t – but, no, we’re definitely not looking at that.”

Whincup after his Race 22 podium

While van Gisbergen still got away with race results of second, first, and fourth, Whincup went ninth, sixth, and then third in the three, 32-lappers.

The seven-time champion admitted the podium in the latter encounter was “almost relieving” having been made to look “ordinary” by his team-mate, although there may have been more to it than that.

Dutton had already explained that Triple Eight was in a somewhat experimental mode during the run of four straight events at Sydney Motorsport Park, but revealed after the conclusion of Race 22 that the tinkering was more so on Whincup’s car than van Gisbergen’s.

The progression for Car #88 was therefore a positive sign.

“We were purposely testing a few things, particularly on 88,” said Dutton.

“[They were] not massive things, so for sure, we didn’t expect the previous races to be sort of as weak as they were.

“So, that’s why in this race [22], we did a few things a little bit differently just to learn and there’s some definitely improvements in that race for Jamie, as you saw from the pace.

“Our strategy for that helped on the tyres, et cetera as well, but that’s some good information leading into the week before the next event.”

The Armor All Sydney SuperNight, which features a mixture of soft and hard compound tyres, starts this Saturday.

It forms part of the Beaurepaires Sydney Cup, an award and $25,000 cash prize going to the highest points-scorer across the four events at Eastern Creek, the race for which van Gisbergen is currently leading.

Sydney Cup

Pos Driver Pts
1 Shane van Gisbergen 272
2 Will Davison 230
3 William Brown 219
4 Nick Percat 214
5 Brodie Kostecki 211
6 Jamie Whincup 210
7 Anton De Pasquale 205
8 Chaz Mostert 196
9 Tim Slade 182
10 David Reynolds 158
11 Cameron Waters 156
12 Andre Heimgartner 144
13 Mark Winterbottom 134
14 Jack Le Brocq 130
15 Todd Hazelwood 118
16 Macauley Jones 114
17 Bryce Fullwood 114
18 James Courtney 106
19 Scott Pye 102
20 Jack Smith 94
21 Garry Jacobson 90
22 Jake Kostecki 88
23 Zane Goddard 78
24 Fabian Coulthard 72
25 Thomas Randle 0
26 Kurt Kostecki 0

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