Nightmare race catches Bathurst champ off guard

Two-time Bathurst 1000 champion Will Davison says his team has figured out what went wrong at the recent Winton round of the Supercars championship, following a nightmare weekend for Dick Johnson Racing.

Davison, who sits fourth in the championship, finished 11th, 14th and 10th in the three races, having gone 2nd, 2nd, 6th, 1st and 3rd in the five races prior to Winton.

His teammate Anton de Pasquale fared little better, coming home 8th, 10th and 8th.

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“We’ve had a very thorough look at what went wrong,” Davison told Wide World of Sports.

“We’re confident we know what we need going forward, there were a few little things that went amiss on the car.

“We hadn’t spent any time there over the last three years, we were the only team that wasn’t able to have a look at the track with the current tire, and with the two-day format, it was very tricky.

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“It caught us off guard, but as disappointed as we were we’ve had time to reflect and understand what happened.”

The 39-year-old remains confident the issues exposed at Winton won’t be repeated elsewhere.

“There was a few things that went against the way our car is designed,” he explained.

“It wasn’t something you could easily fix in the space of a couple of hours.

“Winton was the first time since I’ve been at the team that we haven’t been able to get the car into the operating window.

“As disappointing as that was, it also speaks volumes for the quality of the package we have, because it’s very rare we’re not on the first couple of rows. That’s not easy in this sport.

“It was a bit of a shock, but it’s a rarity for us.”

Davison sits fourth in the Supercars championship approaching the midway point of the season, having won in Perth and scored five other podiums.

He’s within sight of de Pasquale, who’s second in the championship, but Triple Eight’s Shane van Gisbergen has established a commanding lead in the title race.

Davison went head-to-head with van Gisbergen in Tasmania, ultimately finishing second behind the Holden driver. Speaking from the United States, three-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin offered the opinion that van Gisbergen’s rivals “needed to stand up for themselves” on track.

It’s a premise that Davison rejects.

“Scott’s obviously a champion of the sport and he raced hard with Shane,” he said.

“If you’ve got even car speed in a race then it comes down to a one-to-one battle. At the moment Shane’s been able to catch us when we’re leading by five or six seconds. He’s coming at us with time up his sleeve.

“It’s easy to look more aggressive when you’ve got speed compared to those you’re racing against.

“Our focus is to make sure we can compete on race speed, and when I can catch Shane from five seconds behind I’m sure I’ll be able to be more aggressive.”

McLaughlin, who will drive in this weekend’s Indy 500, made waves in an interview with the Associated Press, where he said he came from a series (Supercars) that “was full of backstabbing.”

The New Zealander’s final years in Supercars were overshadowed by arguments over parity between the Commodore and Ford’s Falcon and Mustang cars.

His Bathurst 1000 victory in 2019 was marred by controversy, after his teammate Fabian Coulthard slowed the field behind a safety car to allow McLaughlin to make a pit stop.

Davison, who stepped into the No.17 DJR Mustang vacated by McLaughlin, said his predecessor had simply had enough of the category.

“I know what he means, I know him quite well and I’ve spoken to him quite a lot,” he said.

“A lot of the saga that was going on with the Mustang, and a lot of the cheap talk, he was pretty fed up. I know exactly what he’s on about.

“IndyCar is very cutthroat but also very respectful. I think there is a lot more respect within the community and the fan base than sometimes we see here.

“I get where he’s coming from, and I certainly don’t take it personally.”

Davison will have the chance to take the fight to van Gisbergen next time out in Darwin, a circuit where DJR enjoyed success in 2021.

Davison started from pole in two of the three races, with de Pasquale at the front of the grid for the other. Davison picked up a pair of second place finishes behind van Gisbergen.

“Expectations are high,” he said.

“We go there feeling good, knowing we had a strong car there last year, and obviously very keen to move on from Winton.

“Winton hurt, we’re keen to turn the page and come out swinging.”

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