Tickford Racing left the Townsville 400 having shown promising gains, and despite a number of issues plaguing its drivers across the weekend, head into the second half of 2018 with a relative confidence boost after a particularly challenging start to the year.
The team claimed a total of four top tens across the weekend, signaling one of its best collective performances of the year, having scored four top tens at the season opener in Adelaide and six across four races at the Australian Grand Prix. Chaz Mostert’s 5th on Sunday was the best race finish of the weekend for the team, as the Queenslander also set the fastest lap of the race on Saturday, during a middle stint in which he was consistently the fastest car on track.
Cameron Waters strung together a pair of solid runs, finishing 8th and 9th in the two races. Saturday marked the Sandown 500 winner’s best finish since Race 11 at Barbagallo, and after his Winton and Darwin rounds were plagued by mechanical issues, the 23-year old enjoyed a pair of encouraging races in North Queensland.
The Not So Good
Further positives for the team were lost on both days, as pit lane dramas and head-scratching problems impaired runs for three of the team’s drivers. Mostert fell victim to double-stacking on Saturday, as Mark Winterbottom broke a cord in his left front tyre on Lap 42, and made an unscheduled pit stop just a handful of seconds ahead of Mostert, who was scheduled to come in, and lost valuable time waiting for the 2015 champion’s service to be completed, finishing 13th. Richie Stanaway also faced problems on Saturday, when a late call to pit under Safety Car and simple human error led to the incorrect tyres being put on for the final sprint to the finish. The aged rear tyres made the car difficult to handle, and Stanaway ended up losing valuable time in the final laps when he expected to charge forward through the field.
On Sunday, a mysterious handling issue plagued Winterbottom’s race, as he struggled with his No. 5 The Bottle-O car en route to a 12th place finish. First lap contact could be to blame for the issue, which hampered the veteran’s effort in the second of two 200-km races of the weekend.
Randle’s rookie highs and lows
Thomas Randle returned to the seat of the Skye Sands Ford Falcon in Super2 action in Townsville, where the 22-year old recorded his third straight front row start on Saturday, qualifying second for Race 10 of the year and finishing fourth. Sunday’s race was characterised as a learning moment, as the rookie qualified eighth, but suffered a punctured right front tyre on Lap 19 of 21, due to a heavy lock up of the tyre on track. Running ninth at the time, Randle dropped to 20th in Race 11, and sits 12th in points after 4 of seven Super2 rounds. It’s another two months off for Super2, which returns to action in September at the Sandown 500.
What’s Next: Ipswich SuperSprint
The team is hopeful that the positive momentum gained from Townsville rolls over to Queensland Raceway for Round 9 of the 2018 season. Mostert claimed victory on Sunday at Ipswich in 2017, a win that jumpstarted the 26-year old’s season, where he finished fifth in the championship. The Ipswich SuperSprint, hosting Races 19 and 20 of the 2018 season, takes place over the July 20-22 weekend.