Close racing highlighted exciting Townsville rounds

This year’s rounds of Supercars and Super2 at Townsville’s Reid Park circuit delivered some great battles and exciting racing, with the Team PAYCE drivers producing some impressive performances over the weekend. Unfortunately, not everyone escaped unscathed, but the Team PAYCE drivers who were caught up in the biff and barge were able to recover and end the weekend smiling.
Both James Moffat and Garth Tander were very positive upon arrival and keen to get behind the wheel of their cars on a track they know well and have had some success at in the past. With no relevant carry-over data from the Volvo era, the engineers made an educated guess on initial settings and liaised closely with the drivers through the sessions to refine spring rates, ride height etcetera.
Garth in particular found pace quickly in practice one and finished the session 7th fastest and 11th fastest in practice two, while James and his crew focussed on set-ups in both sessions to record 14th and 19th fastest times.
Saturday’s 15 minute qualifier for the 200 kilometre race in the afternoon was a bit of a lottery to get a clean run and by the end of the session, both boys found themselves mid field despite an improvement in their practice times.
James reported he didn’t feel he got the most out of the session, with the changes not giving him the gains he wanted. Once again, the times were extremely tight, with the exception of Scott McLaughlin’s top time, with less than six-tenths of a second separating the next 21 cars.
From grid positions 13 and 17, both Garth and James made good starts in the 70 lap race, but were caught up in a multi-car crash as the field bunched up in turn one that saw Garth’s #33 Commodore sustain panel damage, mainly to the front guard. James was also involved and incurred a 15 second penalty added to his race time for his role in the incident.
Garth recovered well and was able to work his way up to 5th place before taking his first compulsory pit stop at lap 19. He eventually finished in the top 10 with a well-deserved 8th place after clocking some good lap times.
James also put in some strong times and his lap 19 was the fastest over the three sectors up to that point, but his 15 second penalty meant he was pushed down the order from a top 10 finish to 13th place. Scott McLaughlin was a convincing winner from Whincup and Winterbottom.
Both the #33 and #34 GRM cars are consistently displaying good race pace and improving with every round. Their set-ups of late have been kind on tyre wear and this has given the team the option to keep the cars out longer before pitting.
Unfortunately, some of the competition keep improving as well and the goal posts keep shifting as many of the other teams also find extra tenths of a second in lap time.
Sunday’s qualifier was eagerly awaited as it would determine the starters in the popular Top 10 Shoot out and set the field for the final race of the round. Garth was quick to bank a good time and hovered around in the middle of the top 10 times before finishing with a time that put him into the shootout in 9th spot.
James put in a couple of good laps but could not quite match Garth. His 16th fastest time was less than one-tenth of a second off securing him a top 10 spot, which was frustrating for the team, although in a positive vein, encouraging if they can just find those allusive couple of tenths of a second in lap times.
Garth was second onto the track for the shootout but not overly confident of improving his position as he was one of only two drivers not to have the benefit of a set of green tyres for the run. As it turned out, he started race two in the same position he qualified in.
Race two was to give the team the best result for the round with both cars off the line well and improving their positions by a couple of spots with Garth up to 8th and James up four positions to 12th by the end of lap one. By lap 10 they were both in the top ten and by the end of lap 18 they found themselves running second and third as other cars pitted for mandatory stops to take on fuel and tyres. After taking their stops on lap 20 and lap 23, they worked their way through the field on fresh tyres and were back in the top 10 by lap 30.
James led the field briefly for lap 43 and 44 as the second rounds of pit stops played out before peeling off to pit lane. By lap 48 both Garth and James were up to 6th and 7th spots which they held for the remaining 12 laps to the finish. Garth was a chance to reign in Mostert for another spot towards the end and was right on his rear bumper for the last couple of laps, but decided not to risk a pass. Whincup did a great job to keep McLaughlin at bay with Van Gisbergen third.
Congratulations go to the GRM team for some great strategy and pit stops. The pit stop practice sessions are certainly paying off.
Two top 10 finishes for James (if you don’t count the 15 minute penalty) and a convincing 6th place for Garth were good results to take away. The Wilson Security Racing GRM team also retains its 4th place in the Teams Championship. The next round is the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint on 28-30 July.
Current Drivers Championship standings
Garth Tander 8th
James Moffat 11th
Current Teams Championship
Wilson Security Racing GRM 4th

Dunlop Super2
Both Richard Muscat in the Wilson Security Racing GRM #44 Commodore and Macauley Jones in the Brad Jones Racing #14 Commodore quickly found pace when practice opened on Friday with top 10 times in session one and top 5 times in session two.
Still relatively new to Super2 and the team, Mason Barbera concentrated on quality track time and working on set-ups, with a best time putting him 15th on the time sheets.
Macauley left little on the table and found himself running out of track on a couple occasions while exploring his limits. He was rewarded with third fastest time in session two.
Saturday’s qualifier for the later race was a short 15 minute period and both Richard and Macauley made it into the top 10 times with 6th and 9th spots respectively, while Mason improved on his practice times to finish 12th on the timesheets. Richard put in a great last lap to take him from 23rd to 6th in the dying minutes of the session.
Both Richard and Macauley made good starts in race one and drove strongly to improve their positions as the race unfolded. Macauley in particular, had a great run off the line and was set to make up several positions by turn one, but decided to back off as the field squeezed up.
By race end, Richard found himself with a podium finish in 3rd, while Macauley was well inside the top 10 with a 7th place finish. Mason battled with the pack throughout the race to finish 21st.
Sunday’s qualifier saw Richard and Macauley swap positions from the previous day’s qualifier, with Macauley the fastest with a 6th fastest time and Richard 9th fastest. Mason had a similar time to the previous day to put him 13th on the grid.
Race two proved to be action-packed for all the wrong reasons. A multi-car crash brought out the safety car followed by a red flag as crews removed cars and debris from the track. The incident meant a loss of 10 laps and left just one clean lap to complete the race. In the rush to the chequered flag, a number of cars tangled, including Richard in the #44 Commodore.
In the wash-up, Richard found himself with a 3rd place finish, while Mason made it into the top 10 with a 9th placing and Macauley finished 13th after a promising start. Stewards announced they will review footage and give a ruling on any infringements at a later date.
All three Team PAYCE drivers continue to put in strong performances this season, with Richard’s two podiums the highlight of the weekend.
The next round of in the Dunlop Super2 Championship is the Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint at Sydney Motorsport Park on 18-20 August.
Current standings
Richard Muscat 6th
Macauley Jones 10th
Mason Barbera 17th