Tickford Racing Heads to Hidden Valley for the Darwin Triple Crown
We wrap up the fifth round of the 2021 Supercars Championship, the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown
The fifth round of the 2021 Supercars Championship brought us to Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown. Hosting Race 12, 13, and 14 of the 2021 Championship, the 2.86km circuit is a 14-corner affair of high-speed technical turns, culminating in one enormous 1.1km long final straight. Accounting for three races of the championship, the Ryco-backed Tickford Racing fleet was keen to make up some ground on the Championship ladder. Storming into battle, we had Jack Le Brocq in the No. 5 Truck Assist Ford Mustang, Cam Waters behind the wheel of the No. 6 Monster Energy Ford Mustang, James Courtney piloting the No.44 Boost Mobile Ford Mustang, and Thomas Randle in the No.55 Castrol Racing Ford Mustang. All four drivers offered their thoughts before the big race weekend.
Jack Le Brocq: “It’s a really cool track up in Darwin. Awesome atmosphere, and the circuit layout’s really exciting as well, it’s got a bit of everything going on and makes for some really good racing, and with the heat it always spices things up. There’s a lot of tyre wear, and especially with the Super Soft tyre no one really knows what to expect with it all. It’s going to throw a few curveballs at us, but I’m looking forward to what we can do up there and hopefully we can have some solid results.”
Cam Waters: “I’m super pumped to get to Darwin, it’s obviously nice and warm up there, and a good little holiday to get away from Victoria, so I’m really looking forward to getting up there. Obviously we had a very good run at Hidden Valley last year with a couple of podiums, and our car’s been in a good window lately so hopefully we can come away from the weekend with a few more trophies. It’s obviously nice and warm in Darwin so it’s a little bit harder in the car, but we’re pretty well used to it now, so I’m not really worrying about the heat too much. It’s a Super Soft tyre (round), so that’ll be a bit of a curveball for all of us, so hopefully our car’s nice and kind on its tyres and we can look after them, and that’ll (pay) dividends at the end of the race.”
James Courtney: “It’s good to be heading back to Darwin, it’s a favourite of pretty much everyone’s and obviously we had a great run up there last year picking up a podium which was awesome. It feels like it has been ages since I’ve been in the car so I’m ready to get back into it. Our test day last month prior to Winton being postponed was really positive, we picked up some good things and gained a good direction on the car that we want to apply this weekend, so we’re pretty confident in our package coming in. Obviously the big question mark is the Super Soft tyre, how the grip level will change, how it will degrade, so we’ll have to think on our feet a bit, but everyone’s going to be in the same boat so we’ll just try to get on top of it before everyone else.”
Thomas Randle: “It’s awesome to be doing back to back rounds, I really can’t wait to hit the Hidden Valley circuit. I’ve never raced there before, and also I’ve never been on the Super Soft tyre, but my first experience on it will be the same as everyone else, so I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Castrol Racing Mustang and giving it a red hot crack up there.”
The action kicked off on the Friday with Practice 1 and 2, with the team familiarising themselves with the high-speed circuit. By the end of Practice 2, James Courtney proved fastest among the Tickford fleet, concluding Friday with a best time of 1m06.1973s, making for 9th fastest on the grid. Tailing Courtney on the lap time board was Jack Le Brocq, ending Practice 1 at 10th fastest with a best of 1m06.6160s. Le Brocq managed to improve his time for Practice 2 with a 1m06.4312s, making for 15th fastest of the pack. Cameron Waters’ Practice 1 made for a promising start to the weekend, finding himself 3rd quickest on the grid with a best time of 1m06.3057s. However, he struggled to find the pace for Practice 2, ending the session at 22nd with a best of 1m06.6654s. Thomas Randle improved a great deal between Practice 1 and Practice 2, starting the day at 24th fastest with a best of 1m07.4619. By the end of Practice 2, Randle found almost a second, ending the session at 23rd quickest with a best time of 1m06.6693s.
Saturday kicked with the Race 12 Qualifying round. Cameron Waters came out on top of the Tickford Fleet, managing a 7th place on the starting grid for the first race of the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown with a best lap of 1m05.8305s. Meanwhile, Thomas Randle earned a 17th standing on the grid for Race 12, lapping Hidden Valley Raceway to a best of 1m06.2719s. Further down the grid, we saw James Courtney earn 21st place to kick off Race 12, thanks to a best time of 1m06.6914. Jack Le Brocq found himself trailing not too far behind Courtney, placing 23rd on the grid with a best qualifying time of 1m.06.8889s.
Race 12 proved itself to be a mixed bag of emotions for the Tickford boys. After a hard-fought race, Cameron Waters had the only podium of the weekend in the bag, climbing 5 places up the grid to a 2nd place finish. Meanwhile, Thomas Randle managed his best finish of the season yet, moving up a good 8 places and crossing the chequered flag at 9th of the grid. The drama was plentiful however for James Courtney. Despite, finishing the race at 4th place, a five-second penalty over a Safety Car restart procedure breach after the race was stopped over the first-corner melee saw Courtney’s standing drop to 10th place. Jack Le Brocq managed to improve his standing on the grid, climbing 3 places to a 20th place finish to round out Race 12.
Cameron Waters was “absolutely rapt” with the result, with the following to say about his Race 12 podium finish: "We've been struggling all weekend with the car; we rolled out and it was pretty bad.
"We've really worked hard to get it to a little window where we're definitely top five pace.
"Chaz and Shane had a bit over me; we're a lot happier, but we've still got a little bit to find.
"To come out and have a little bit of luck go our way for a change is a breath of fresh air."
Sunday saw the boys working hard to gain momentum, kicking off the day with Qualifying for Race 13 and 14. Cameron Waters rounded out Race 13 qualifying with a best of 1m05.6101s, earning him a 7th place start on the grid. Waters managed to find some time in Race 14 qualifying, improving his best with a 1m05.3859s. This however didn’t translate to an improved start on the grid, managed 12th place. Meanwhile, Jack Le Brocq managed an 11th place standing for Race 13 with a best of 1m05.7309s. He didn’t fare quite as well for the Race 14 Qualifying, ending the session with a 19th place standing thanks to a best of 1m05.5413s. James Courtney on the other hand, started the day by earning himself a 16th place start on the grid for Race 13 with a best time of 1m.05.8005s. Courtney managed to improve his standing a great deal for Race 14, ending the session with a best of 1m05.2432s and managing a 5th place start for the last race of the weekend. Thomas Randle, tailed right behind Courtney for the Race 13 Qualifying session, earning himself a start right behind Courtney at 17th place thanks to a best of 1m.05.8169s. By the end of the race 14 Qualifying session, he managed a 16th place start with a best time of 1m.05.4985s.
Race 13 saw Cameron Waters at the top of the Tickford fleet with a 7th place finish. James Courtney fought through the pack, climbing a good 6 places to a 10th place across the chequered flag. Jack Le Brocq finished right behind his Tickford stablemate, maintaining his 11th place standing from the grid to the finish line. Further down the grid, we saw Thomas Randle end Race 13 with a 25th place finish.
The final race saw improvements amongst the entire Tickford Fleet. James Courtney’s luck turned around, rounding out Race 14 with a 5th place finish. This not only saw him end the weekend on top of the Tickford fleet, but also allowed him to move into the Top 10 of the point standings. Meanwhile, we saw Cameron Waters climb the grid to an 8th place finish to end the weekend. Improving a great deal from Race 13, Thomas Randle rounded out the weekend crossing the chequered flag at 11th place. Jack Le Brocq climbed the ranks by four places from his starting position, finishing Race 14 with 19th place finish.
With the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown in the books, Cam Waters remains at 5th place on the Driver’s Championship ladder with 1064 points. Jack Le Brocq also stays put at 16th on the ladder with 634 points. James Courtney continues to climb the rungs, finishing the weekend at 9th on the ladder with 744 points. Tickford newcomer, Thomas Randle, finds himself at 25th on the ladder with 136 points. As for the Dunlop Team Championship, Tickford Racing remains at 3rd place with 1794 points. Tickford-backed Truck Assist Racing keeps their 12th placing with 634 points, and Castrol Racing sits at 14th place with 260 points.
The sixth round of the 2021 Supercars Championship calendar will see the team head down to Townsville, Queensland for the NTI Townsville 500 at Reid Park Street Circuit, from the 9th to the 11th of July.
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