Emotional Coulthard dedicates win to Richards
By rights, teenage sensation Scott McLaughlin should have been the talk of the V8 Supercars exhibition round at the Australian Grand Prix after a breakthrough win on Sunday.
But another New Zealand driver took centre stage after an emotional post-race media conference in Melbourne.
McLaughlin, 19, confirmed his status as the driver to watch in 2013 when he took out the fourth and final V8 race at Albert Park almost two seconds ahead of series leader Craig Lowndes while fellow Kiwi Fabian Coulthard third.
McLaughlin's win ensured New Zealand drivers completed a clean sweep of the non-championship round.
Coulthard - winner of the opening three races - was named the overall victor ahead of Brad Jones Racing (BJR) Holden teammate Jason Bright; Ford's Will Davison was third.
But BJR kept the champagne on ice as they remembered former Kiwi teammate Jason Richards who lost his battle with cancer in December 2011.
Bright was close to tears as he opted to salute Richards rather than revel in their success.
"It's a bittersweet weekend because JR had such a great weekend here two years ago," he said of Richards who incredibly finished on the podium in Melbourne in 2011 despite battling an aggressive form of cancer.
Coulthard said the memory of the two-time Bathurst runner-up would never fade.
"I've had my first pole position, first race win and first round win and there's no better person to dedicate this to than JR," he said.
"(Richards' wife) Charlotte and his kids were here just yesterday."
The BJR cars still carry Richards insignia and star as a permanent tribute.
"He will never be forgotten. I'm sure he is looking at both of us, high-fiving both of us," Coulthard said.
He hoped this weekend's performances would continue when the championship resumes at Symmons Plains, Tasmania, from April 5.
"We have hit the ground running and we have to capitalise on that," he said.
McLaughlin - the reigning second-tier Dunlop Series champion - started from seventh on the grid on Sunday but expertly worked his way through the field and pounced on Coulthard after the pole sitter took his compulsory pit stop on the fifth of the race's 12 laps.
Coulthard, meanwhile, could savour the round victory before the before the finale started after a technical breach wiped some of V8's biggest names from the race-three result sheet.
He finished fourth in race three on Saturday behind fellow flying Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen who claimed line honours.
However, Coulthard was elevated to first by officials on Sunday after eight drivers were excluded due to a rules violation.
The list of affected drivers read like a "who's who" of the category - Van Gisbergen, Lowndes, four-time champion Jamie Whincup, Bathurst winner Todd Kelly, Michael Caruso, Jonathan Webb, Scott Pye and Dean Fiore.
When all were culled, Coulthard was awarded the win with David Reynolds second and Bright third.
Officials said the drivers were punished for "an accidental setting of the ignition timing".
Nissan driver Kelly said no advantage would have been gained by any of the eight drivers but acknowledged it was technically a breach.
"It's hard to be too tough on anybody here for that because of the hours the boys have been doing ... you could easily see how that oversight could have crept in," he said.
"It's just a shame that it's happened."