Photo: DJR Team Penske

Fabian Coulthard breaks through for first win of 2019

Fabian Coulthard made the best of a front row start to take the victory in Sunday’s Supercars Championship Phillip Island 200km race.

Heading up yet another DJR Team Penske one-two ahead of championship leader Scott McLaughlin, Coulthard controlled his side of the race and was rewarded with his first victory since Winton 2018.

After qualifying second to McLaughlin, it was a lock-out for Coulthard’s team and after their side-by-side start yesterday, he knew what he’d have to do in the race to make it work.

An even jump off the line initially turned into a better second phase for McLaughlin, getting the advantage over Coulthard into turn one. Chaz Mostert in third for Tickford baulked his start, dropping behind his team-mate Will Davison while fighting other stable mate Cam Waters behind.

Todd Hazelwood in the Matt Stone Racing entry made one of the best starts in the top ten, fighting up in seventh position and looking to move forward until he was spun at turn six by James Courtney.

The Walkinshaw Andretti United driver got loose on turn in and tagged the back of Hazelwood’s car, spinning him into the gravel and earning himself a 15 second penalty while the MSR entry circulated at the back of the pack.

McLaughlin relegated the lead on lap five, coming in for his first stop of the day, being followed into the lane by Cam Waters, Triple Eight’s Whincup and a handful of others further back down the order. Waters ended up leaving the lane ahead of McLaughlin, taking a shorter fill of fuel to gain track position.

Mostert came in on the next tour, just taking fuel with no tyres, allowing him to come back on track ahead of Waters. Coulthard followed suit the next lap around, taking another big dump of fuel while Erebus driver Anton de Pasquale jumped him due to the shorter stop time.

As Waters became the cork in the bottle throughout the second stint, de Pasquale and Coulthard were being held up behind him. McLaughlin had seen enough by lap 16, coming in for a second pit stop to remove himself from the battle pack.

Mostert and Waters came into their respective Tickford booms on lap 17, both taking tyres and a lot of fuel after their earlier short stops. Mostert led out of the lane but McLaughlin jumped the pair of them with a clear margin.

Following suit with the rest of the pack, de Pasquale was the next to blink, coming out of the pit lane ahead of McLaughlin and having to fight the championship leader while on cold tyres in the first phase of his stint.

The last of the leaders came in for their second stops on lap 19, Coulthard leading the way into the lane and re-entering the tack in front of de Pasquale and team-mate McLaughlin, inheriting the effective race lead.

Chasing Coulthard out of the pits, McLaughlin got the edge on de Pasquale at turn two, sneaking himself up the inside of the Erebus Commodore just as he did on David Reynolds and Jamie Whincup in 2018.

Throughout the next phase of the race, the gap between the two DJR Team Penske Mustangs expanded and contracted, roughly staying at around a second between the two cars while they kept de Pasquale behind them with ease.

In the last ten laps of the race, James Courtney had his second right front tyre failure of the race and the third of the weekend, each time failing on the run into turn one. The drama added salt to the wounds of an already horrible weekend for the 2010 champion.

A late race charge from Tim Slade in his Brad Jones Racing Commodore on fresh tyres saw him make his way past Reynolds for tenth and hunt down team-mate Nick Percat for ninth, the younger BJR driver struggling to get past Rick Kelly for a number of laps.
Slade made his way past Percat, dropping the other BJR car back into the clutches of Reynolds though the order remained the same, allowing Percat to take the last top ten spot.

Out the front, Coulthard comfortably took the win ahead of his team-mate, breaking through for his first win of the season. The one-two finish completed a clean sweep of the weekend for DJR Team Penske, mimicking the results of last year.

On the last step of the podium, Anton de Pasquale managed a late race fuel drama to seal his first top three finish in Supercars, jumping onto the dais for the first time after debuting at the start of 2018.

Will Davison put in a strong drive to take fourth, making his progress early in the race while pseudo-team-mate Mostert ended the race in fifth. Waters ended up just outside of the top five and Shane van Gisbergen’s quiet day resulted in a seventh place, getting home ahead of Kelly, Slade and Percat for the top ten.

Reynolds couldn’t get by to make the ten but headed Whincup home, the Triple Eight driver wanting to move on from a disastrous weekend. Young Todd Hazelwood fought back up to 16th after the first lap contact which took him out of seventh, wanting to keep his good form going into the next round.