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Monday, 08 May 2017 11:18

Analysis: Kiwi invasion in Supercars

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Sixteen years ago, V8 Supercars first ventured to Pukekohe Park Raceway for a championship round won by local hero Greg Murphy. We are now witnessing the rise of New Zealanders inspired to race across the Tasman, as we examine in issue #98.

Issue #98 is on sale now in stores with the digital edition available in the official V8X app (in the App Store and Google Play), online at DigitalEdition.V8XMagazine.com.au and in the Magzter app store.

CLICK HERE for more information on issue #98.

A rivalry is brewing at the pointy edge of the Supercars field on two fronts. DJR Team Penske has closed the gap to long-time front-runners Triple Eight Race Engineering. And three fast Kiwis are leading the New Zealand charge across the two teams in reigning Triple Eight champ Shane van Gisbergen and DJR Team Penske's Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin.

The competition between the two teams was fueled before the season started with long-time Triple Eight engineer Ludo Lacroix moving to DJR Team Penske.

"It's pretty interesting that they are worried about us," said McLaughlin on Triple Eight. "It's cool; it's not a bad thing. We've got a good spring in our step at the moment. I'm excited about battling these guys. I've got a lot of work to do to be consistent, as these guys are consistent every week."

The inter-team Kiwi battle between McLaughlin and Coulthard has also not been lost on the driver of the established #12 Ford.

"The car is very different to what I'm used to driving with the introduction of new personnel and things like that," said Coulthard. "Having a quick teammate has been good as well in Scotty Mac. I've certainly learnt a lot from him in the short time we've worked together."

When asked what he'd learnt from McLaughlin, Coulthard quickly retorted, "Well, he's obviously pretty fast, isn't he?" But the drivers themselves have downplayed the significance of a Kiwi battle.

"I don't really see it as a rivalry," said van Gisbergen. "I don't see him (McLaughlin) as any different to any other driver. It's good to have another Kiwi up front and another brand. It's good for the sports interest in our own country but I think there's a little bit of rivalry between teams with the powers that be, but from my end it's all good. To have a team constantly competing against us is a good problem to have."

McLaughlin added: "I wouldn't say I said it's a rivalry, but it's been said by others."

Despite 2016 Kiwis racers Chris Pither and Andre Heimgartner being unable to secure full-time deals for this year, van Gisbergen said it's good for New Zealand fans to have three drivers to cheer for.

"Unfortunately there's a couple less of us this year but the one's that are in there have good cars and all in pretty fortunate positions," he said.

"Unfortunately we only get to race in New Zealand once a year, but the coverage I'm told is awesome over there. I'm proud to be a Kiwi, definitely love the place. I wish I could live their still but great to be representing New Zealand and if my teammates can't win I'd love a Kiwi to win."

"It's like Shane said we're all in good cars," Coulthard added. "We work hard to be in this position. We go racing because we want to and we love it. We are thankful that we've been able to get to this point in our career and have the support of the nation."

Aussie driver James Courtney was quick to add his thoughts for some light-hearted trans-Tasman banter.

"They're pretty much Australians, let's be honest," he said. "Actually, let's cut the crap, they're Australian. They've been living here long enough..." To which Coulthard replied, "You only claim the good ones."

CLICK HERE to purchase issue #98.