ITM AUCKLAND SUPERSPRINT
- PAYCE Head Office, Sydney NSW.
A Strong showing by the Volvo team in Auckland with two more podiums.
With good performances in the final endurance round at the Gold Coast 600, Team PAYCE drivers, Scott McLaughlin and James Moffat were looking forward to a return to the sprints.
With the ITM Auckland SuperSprint the penultimate round on the championship trail, this round consisted of three practice sessions and four 10 minute qualifying sessions for the four 100 kilometre races over Saturday and Sunday.
Scotty`s sights set high – Brian Boyd.
PAYCE Managing Director, Brian Boyd said: "For Scotty in the #33 Volvo S60, it was a chance to put on a good show for his huge local fan base and climb up into the top three on the drivers leaderboard.
"The circuit holds a special place in Scotty's career, as it was at Pukekohe in 2013 that he became the youngest driver to win a Supercars race.
"Also, he had his sights on the much coveted Jason Richards Memorial Trophy for the best overall performance in the round," he said.
James Moffat first time on the track.
"For James, it was his first appearance at the circuit in the Volvo, but he had also notched up good performances there in the past, so he would have been keen to add some points before the season wraps up next month."
Fly-in event limits spare part access - Brian Boyd.
Brian Boyd said that as the round was an overseas fly-in event, the Wilson Security Racing GRM team was conscious of the need to avoid accidents, as replacement parts and materials were limited if they were needed as a result of serious crashes.
"Fortunately, the level of incidents experienced at Sandown and Bathurst did not repeat, although some panel damage was sustained by both cars during the racing over the weekend," he said.
Friday`s action - with Brian Boyd.
The action got underway on Friday with three practice sessions and all teams found the track and the weather challenging. Rain affected the first practice and while both Scott and James put in some good times early, they finished well down the order in 20th and 17th spots respectively. The second practice was much more rewarding for Scott, who completed the session in 4th place, while James was 19th.
The final session was disappointing for the team with both cars well down the times. Scotty reported that the car was not responding as he would like, but clearly he was giving it his all.
Brian Boyd said all teams were searching for grip and both Volvos had excursions off-track during the sessions, with Scotty's car in contact with the tyre barrier after pushing a little too hard.
"As has been the case all through the season, the category continues to be highly competitive and any small error on track can make a big difference in placings, with literally only hundredths of a second often separating cars," he said.
Saturdays weather clears for the qualifying rounds …
Saturday's weather was fine for qualifying for both races later in the day and with only a short ten minutes to make their mark, teams had only time for runs on two sets of tyres (old and new) and minimum time to adjust settings.
"With the usual frantic closing stages of the first qualifier, Scott put the #33 Volvo on the second row with third fastest time after some last minute changes to the rear ride height, while James was well out of contention at the rear of the field after an excursion off-track. Second qualifier saw Scott gridded further down in 8th and James with work to do from 22nd."
And with the First Race underway …
In the first race over 35 laps, Scott got away well, held position after a brief battle with van Gisbergen. The race was interrupted by a red flag on lap 3 when Jason Bright blocked the pit lane entry.
As the race resumed, Scott proceeded to hold that position throughout the race with a minimum of challenges in what turned out to be a rather processional race with little position changes in the front half of the field.
Scott was rewarded for his efforts with a podium that he would hopefully build on in later races. James drove strongly in the #34 Volvo to be one of the few drivers to gaining multiple places, pulling up five spots.
James` progress was interrupted by a mishap with Dale Wood as he returned to the track after being forced off at turn 5, but he pressed on until time ran out to improve further.
Race winner was Jamie Whincup from Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin.
Race 2 – Gisbergen turns the tables - Brian Boyd.
Race 2 had the Volvos down the grid in 8th and 22nd, so both boys had their work cut out. A great battle ensued up front between van Gisbergen and Whincup that had the crowd on their feet. By lap 5, Scott had move up one position after duelling with Winterbottom, and James was on the move, making up six positions. At race finish, Scott crossed in 7th and James made two more spots to cross in 14th, an impressive improvement of eight positions off the grid. Shane van Gisbergen turned the tables on Jamie Whincup from the earlier race to take the chequered flag.
Sunday qualifiers and the best run of the meet.
Brian Boyd said Sunday's qualifiers started out ordinarily with an 8th quickest for Scott and a 15th for James in session one, then developed promise for the team with the two Volvos in the top ten in the second session, with Scott just three hundredths of a second off the top time and slotted into third spot. James had his best run of the sessions to sit 10th on the grid.
Race 3 – Mark Winterbottom takes the third.
Race 3 had Scott in the #33 car 8th on the grid again, with James in the #34 car closer to the front than Saturday in 15th spot. It's worth noting that James' time was just 4/10ths of a second slower than pole sitter, van Gisbergen. Both drivers got off the line well, but on lap 3 Scott went into the back of a baulked Lowndes which reshaped the #33 Volvo's bonnet, but both cars were able to continue racing. By lap 14, James had passed Tander and worked his way up to 11th and Scotty to 5th.
Mid race, Scott locked up and ran wide, pushing him back to 7th. James dropped one position to finish in 12th place, while Scott was able to hold on to a top ten finish in 7th. Both drivers fought for rear grip all weekend which adversely affected their normally aggressive approach to the sprint races.
The race was won by Mark Winterbottom after a coming together by van Gisbergen and Whincup while both were in the lead pushed them down the order, with Whincup also copping a drive through penalty.
Race 4 - And as the chequered flag comes down …
Race 4 was to prove the best result for the Team PAYCE drivers after Scott qualified in third spot and James in tenth. Both cars got off the line well and generally held their positions throughout the race.
Scott had a number of strong challenges from Mostert and Winterbottom, but in a determined drive brought the #33 Volvo home in third place to score his second podium of the round. James enjoyed his best result for the round, attacking and defending throughout the 35 laps and taking the flag for a well-deserved tenth place. Jamie Whincup won from Shane van Gisbergen.
Brian Boyd said Kiwi Scott may have missed out on the Jason Richards Trophy this year, but to come away with two podiums and closer to that third place in the Drivers' Championship was a great result.
"James had a strong finish to the round and when times are compared, he was just a whisker away from the leaders," he said.
"The GRM team did a great job as always and in the Teams Championship, they are in third place, with a good chance to bump HRT from second in Sydney next month.
"Congratulations to Shane van Gisbergen on winning the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy and Triple Eight. It was quite an emotional victory and great to see a Kiwi take home the trophy for the first time," Brian Boyd said.
And as the season draws to a close …
The year's exciting action wraps up at the last round for the 2016 Supercars season at Homebush in Sydney on 2-4 December, where Team PAYCE drivers, James Golding and Richard Muscat will also compete in the final round of the Dunlop Series Championship.
Go Team PAYCE!