• PAYCE Head Office, Sydney NSW.

Strategies win out at Pukekohe

PAYCE Managing Director, Brian Boyd says this year's round at Pukekohe produced some outstanding racing, with both weather and strategies playing big roles in the results.

"The two top contenders for the drivers' championship, Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen, started the weekend a mere 14 points apart and this meeting was one of the few remaining opportunities for either to take a commanding lead or slip further behind," Brian Boyd said.

"The Team PAYCE drivers, Garth Tander and James Golding are out of the picture for the championship title, but were quietly optimistic of a good showing.

Bumpy Track Proving to be a Challenge – Brian Boyd

"In the first practice session, Scott set the pace for the field to match, while the GRM team were disappointed not to have found more speed. They weren't the only ones to find it hard going, with the bumpy track proving to be a challenge for many.

"As usual, the times were tight and Garth's 20th best time was only seven-tenths of a second off fastest, while James was another couple of tenths down the order," Brian Boyd added.

"In practice two, Scott McLaughlin tripped up early in the session and found the barriers with a hard hit that put the Falcon out for the remainder of the session."

Brian said Garth managed a slight improvement, but was still six-tenths of a second off the lead time, while James bettered his earlier time to be just one-tenth off Garth's time.

"The final practice on Saturday was run in damp conditions that brought all the times down. Chaz Mostert mastered the conditions best to finish on top of the times. That made it three different drivers leading each practice," he said.

Garth and James had their work cut out come Race Time – Brian Boyd

"The damp conditions returned for part of the qualifying session and Scott McLaughlin made the best of the situation. Despite last minute charges from van Gisbergen and Mostert, Scott's time stood and he collected yet another pole-sitter's cheque – his 13th for the season.

"Despite the best efforts of the GRM team, Garth and James were way down the order in 20th and 24th, with their work cut out come race time.

Saturday's Race full of Drama – Brian Boyd

"Saturday's race was to be full of drama on and off the track that lasted well into Sunday. It centred around van Gisbergen giving McLaughlin a hard hit from behind as they entered the corner, before passing him with just 10 laps to go. Van Gisbergen was penalised five seconds which meant he had to run hard to the finish to gap Scotty by at least five seconds, which he just managed to do," reported Brian Boyd.

Brian said that wasn't the end of the dramas however, as the TV cameras in the pits picked up that van Gisbergen in his pit stop had rotated his wheels before the car was released from the jacks.

"The post-race investigation into this pit incident was delayed till Sunday and there was no shortage of opinions flying around – both for and against another penalty being applied. When the dust finally settled, the stewards deemed there was no penalty to be applied.

"This confirmed van Gisbergen as the winner of Saturday's race, but McLaughlin still two points ahead in the championship.

"James Golding in the #34 Commodore did well in the race to come through the field to finish 14th after some good passing moves plus well-timed pit strategies. No luck for Garth though and he was caught up in some rough battles that saw him finish at the rear of the pack."

Sunday Qualifier: Top Performers chose to wait till near the end of the Session – Brian Boyd

Brian said Sunday's qualifier was tight, with a red flag out early when Hazelwood went into the barriers. The top performers chose to wait till near the end of the session and the top times jumped around before Reynolds emerged with the fastest time.

"Garth and James were still around six to seven tenths off the front runners, which meant another start from near the back and the prospect of battles to improve race position," Brian continued.

"Whincup came out on top in the Shootout, his fifth pole for the season and Scott made up the front row with a time that was just one-hundredths of a second off Whincup's time.

McLaughlin Banks another Convincing Win – Brian Boyd

"In the race, Whincup got the better start and held the lead till the second pit stop when McLaughlin undercut him. Scotty was able to hold onto the lead and bank another convincing win.

"Van Gisbergen didn't have Saturday's pace, but was able to come home in second spot after Whincup gave up the place on team orders to minimise the gap to McLaughlin," Brian Boyd added.

After two days of racing, the gap remained unchanged at 14 points, with McLaughlin still leading and as a bonus being awarded the Jason Richards Trophy for amassing most points over the weekend. He actually tied with van Gisbergen on points, but his pole on Saturday gave him the overall win.

Garth Delivered Another Great Race Performance before the Newcastle Final – Brian Boyd

Brian said for the GRM team, Garth gave another great race performance, coupled with good strategies, to come home in 13th spot, while James had more than his share of battles and bad luck to be 21st.

"The season now wraps up in Newcastle in a couple of weeks and what a meeting that promises to be. Last year it was the title decider and here it is again. Scott and Shane will go head to head and the one driver and team that make the least mistakes will more than likely emerge the 2018 champion," Brian said.

Go Team PAYCE!