Pre­mat fast be­com­ing ideal side­kick for Ki­wis

Weekend Herald - - RUGBY - Eric Thomp­son Se­nior de­but for Kiwi karter Team boss hails Dixon Porsche trio aim to push on Teen Arm­strong hot on heels

There will be a few ner­vous driv­ers and team own­ers at Sandown this weekend for the first of the Pirtek En­duro Cup rounds. Th­ese next three rounds — Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000 ( Oc­to­ber 8) and Gold Coast 600 ( Oc­to­ber 22) — will have a ma­jor in­flu­ence on who will be crowned the best V8 driver in 2017.

There are prob­a­bly five se­ri­ous ti­tle con­tenders ( Scott McLaugh­lin, Jamie Whin­cup, Fabian Coulthard, Shane van Gis­ber­gen and Chaz Mostert) who will be des­per­ate to grab points over the next three races to so­lid­ify their po­si­tion on the ta­ble, be­fore the sprint fun and games start again in Auck­land at the ITM Su­perSprint, Novem­ber 5.

Or­di­nar­ily teams are rel­a­tively set­tled and have a game plan locked in when they just have to worry about their reg­u­lar driv­ers. The driv­ers them­selves are pretty much okay as they can set the car up how they like. There is a whole new bas­ket of vari­ables in­tro­duced into the mix when you put a co- driver into the car.

While not cast­ing as­per­sions on the tal­ented line up of co- driv­ers, they are to a cer­tain ex­tent not as pro­fi­cient, nor had the track time, as the main game driv­ers. One could es­peci- ally say that about some­one like Alex Pre­mat who i s shar­ing du­ties with McLaugh­lin.

Last year the tal­ented French­man was given a bit of a dust- up by some in the press, but he came out swing­ing by do­ing what he does in the car. And lo and be­hold he and van Gis­ber­gen tri­umphed, win­ning the Pirtek En­duro Cup. By do­ing so Pre­mat was instrumental in launch­ing the Kiwi to his first Su­per­cars ti­tle.

This year Pre­mat has moved teams and i s suit­ing up along­side McLaugh­lin, who just hap­pens to be lead­ing the ti­tle race.

“I re­ally en­joyed driv­ing at Red Bull and help­ing Shane win the Cup [ Pirtek En­duro],” said Pre­mat. “I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to be­ing with Scott and also help­ing him win the Cup and maybe even help­ing him to his first cham­pi­onship.

“Test­ing has gone re­ally well and I am very com­fort­able in the car. It can some­times be hard to change teams but it has gone very well as both teams [ Red Bull Holden and DJR Team Penske] are re­ally pro­fes­sional.

“It also helps that Scott and I have sim­i­lar driv­ing styles so car set up is not too much of a prob­lem for it to be good for both of us.”

Some might pon­der why Pre­mat would want to leave an out­fit where he had pre­vi­ously won to jump to a rel­a­tively new team, al­beit with the might of the Penske rac­ing be­he­moth be­hind it. You have to re­mem­ber though, Pre­mat was a team­mate of McLaugh­lin’s back in days when they both raced at Garry Rodgers Mo­tor­sport and part­nered him in the Volvo. Also, Penske is an Amer­i­can- based com­pany, which might have some­thing to do with it.

“Red Bull had made me an of­fer to stay again this year and DJR Team Penske also made me an of­fer. It was hard to make the de­ci­sion as I en­joyed rac­ing with Shane and be­ing part of Red Bull.

“I have lived in America now for t wo years and the op­por­tu­nity to build a re­la­tion­ship with Penske made more sense.

“I have been do­ing a lit­tle rac­ing in the States but would like to do more next year. They [ DJR Team Penske] might be a young team in the Su­per­cars cham­pi­onship, but they have a great rep­u­ta­tion and along his­tory in America.

“Al­though I en­joyed my time at Red Bull it was too good of an op­por­tu­nity to not too take. Also, I’d like to help Scott win a ti­tle. If he does that it will be t wo New Zealan­ders I have helped, and maybe next year I can Scott McLaugh­lin. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2058 Jamie Whin­cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2046 Fabian Coulthard . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1951 Shane van Gis­ber­gen . . . . . . . . 1800 Chaz Mostert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1794 drive with Fabian to make num­ber three!” he said laughing.

On pa­per McLaugh­lin and Pre­mat’s strong­est chal­lenge will be from the Whin­cup/ Paul Drum­bell com­bi­na­tion. They have paired up for a num­ber of years and Drum­bell is a reg­u­lar in the De­vel­op­ment Se­ries.

Van Gis­ber­gen is with Matt Camp­bell who has tested well and is on fire rac­ing Porsches in Europe. He may be young but be­ing able to stay with the best in Europe is a good in­di­ca­tor he’ll go well at Sandown.

Coulthard is with Tony D’Al­berto, who is no stranger to the main game hav­ing been a reg­u­lar in the past. New Zealand rally driver Mike Young is in Ja­pan this weekend rac­ing with his Ja­panese Cusco Rac­ing team at the fourth round of the FIA Asia Pa­cific Rally Cham­pi­onship. Young and co­driver Mal­colm Read have had suc­cess at the event in the past and are com­pet­ing in a new Toy­ota Vitz ( Yaris). Top fe­male karter Rianna O’Mear­aHunt takes one of the big­gest steps in her ca­reer this weekend, mak­ing her se­nior de­but in Aus­tralia at the fi­nal round of this year’s Ro­tax Pro Tour se­ries. At pre­vi­ous rounds, O’Mear­aHunt raced the ju­nior class, mak­ing his­tory in March when she won the ju­nior fi­nal race out­right. IndyCar racer Scott Dixon has been given the seal of ap­proval by Chip Ganassi Rac­ing’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Mike Hull, who be­lieves the four- time IndyCar cham­pion stands com­par­i­son with the leg­ends of the sport. Should he win his fifth ti­tle at Sonoma this weekend it would put him into sec­ond place in the all- time list, be­hind A. J. Foyt ( seven). Ki­wis Bren­don Hart­ley, Earl Bam­ber and Ger­man Timo Bern­hard are look­ing to ex­tend their World En­durance Cham­pi­onship lead this weekend at the Cir­cuit Of The Amer­i­cas. After five rounds the Porsche trio lead Toy­ota by 41 points with the sis­ter Porsche a fur­ther 29 points back. With two rounds left in the Ger­man ADAC For­mula 4 cham­pi­onship, 17- year- old New Zealan­der Mar­cus Arm­strong is in a handy sec­ond place be­hind Es­to­nian Juri Vips. The se­ries is at the Sach­sen­ring Cir­cuit, near Chem­nitz, this weekend. With the news that Porsche LMP1 driver Bren­don Hart­ley is in dis­cus­sion with Chip Ganassi Rac­ing, maybe IndyCar is the place for aspir­ing For­mula One driv­ers to head. For a start the rac­ing, is, well, rac­ing and any one of eight to 10 driv­ers can win on any given day. Porsche are cut­ting their LMP1 pro­gramme at the end of the year, which leaves Hart­ley look­ing at his op­tions. IndyCar got a global boost when F1 pilot Fer­nando Alonso en­tered the Indy 500 and showed com­pet­i­tive pace. We’ll start to see more and more young sin­gle seaters head to America where there are more op­tions.

Pic / Sup­plied.

French­man Alex Pre­mat is ea­ger to es­tab­lish a win­ning part­ner­ship with Scott McLaugh­lin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.