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Back on Track – Darwin Crash Course

TICKFORD RACING – DARWIN GALLERY

Following what ended up being a six-week hiatus due to the postponement of the Winton SuperSprint, the Supercars Championship hit the track last weekend for a favourite on the calendar: the Darwin Triple Crown. The perfect winter getaway event also proved to be one of the most action-packed weekends of the season, with hard fought Supercars action complemented by a diverse support card, off-track activities galore, and all taking place in Darwin’s slice of paradise. Read on below to catch up on the storylines of the weekend and have a scroll through our gallery to take in some of the best shots of the fifth round of the 2021 Supercars season.

Waters accumulates
By his own standards, Cam Waters’ Darwin weekend wasn’t the success he had hoped, where he struggled to maintain the category-best qualifying form he has shown in 2021. Qualifying results of 7th, 7th, and 12th marked his first start outside the top 10 since The Bend 1 in 2020, but by avoiding Lap 1 chaos in Race 12 and executing a clever pit strategy in the race, the 26-year old scored a second-place finish in the opening race of the weekend, his fifth podium of 2021 and 24th of his career. Finishes of seventh and eighth on Sunday dampened his weekend to a degree, with the Monster Energy Racing driver leaving Darwin fifth in the drivers’ championship, but just a mere 76 points from second on the ladder.

Randle grabs headlines, and attention
Friday’s practice sessions were largely overshadowed by news that Tickford Racing had obtained a fourth Racing Entitlements Contract for the 2022 season, followed shortly by the confirmation that Thomas Randle will make his full-time Supercars debut in 2022 in one of Tickford Racing’s four Ford Mustangs. Competing as a wild card entry at Darwin, Randle used the good news as motivation en route to another impressive weekend on track, recording ninth and 11th place finishes in Races 12 and 14. A mechanical gremlin anchored a 25th place finish in Race 13 early on Sunday, but did not keep the 25-year old’s spirits down following another strong run in the Castrol Racing Mustang. Randle will next compete with the team as a wild card at the Perth SuperNight in September.

Courtney claws towards podium
The 2010 champion appears to be back on song after an up and down start to the season, and James Courtney found himself in the battle for the podium twice in the Top End. A fourth place finish in Race 12 was subsequently relegated to 10th following a post-race time penalty, but finishes of 10th and fifth in Sunday’s races elevated JC to ninth in the drivers’ standings. In 12 thus far races where Courtney has not encountered issues, he has finished in the top 12 in each, and is trending closer and closer to the pointy end. Courtney and Waters’ respective performances have also put Tickford’s team entry firmly in the fight for second in the teams’ championship, which will become a fascinating battle as the championship transitions into its second half.

Courtney’s competitive outings weren’t just limited to races against four-wheeled Supercars, Saturday morning featured a live broadcast sprint race between JC and three-time Australian Superbike champion Wayne Maxwell, the pair of Boost Mobile-supported racers barrelling to the chequered flag in a dead heat.

Super Soft bites Le Brocq
A promising start to Jack Le Brocq’s weekend was tripped up in qualifying for Race 12, where the 28-year old was knocked out of Q1 after he refrained from making a second qualifying attempt, ultimately being usurped by competitors who did take the chance to run again while Le Brocq’s team elected to save its Super Soft tyres. After qualifying 23rd, Le Brocq moved up to 20th in the opening race of the weekend, before qualifying and finishing a reasonable 11th in Race 13 on Sunday. Le Brocq’s Race 14 was marred by an early incident that sent him to the back of the field, however Le Brocq was able to climb back to 15th by the chequered flag. Despite the challenging weekend, Le Brocq’s race pace and ability to move forward does lend itself to promise as the championship leaves the Northern Territory.

What’s Next: NTI Townsville 500
The sixth round of the 2021 Supercars Championship marks the halfway point on the Supercars schedule, and takes place on the streets of Townsville in far North Queensland. It will be the second ‘500’ in Townsville’s history, with a format featuring two 250-kilometre races that was last used at the Reid Park circuit in 2014. The event also marks the first race event with refuelling allowed since the Mount Panorama 500 in late February. The NTI Townsville 500 takes place July 9-11.