Fabian Coulthard targets qualifying in Melbourne
In-form Kiwi driver Fabian Coulthard is hoping local knowledge will help him as the V8 Supercars hit Melbourne this weekend.
Coulthard, who drives for Lockwood Racing under Brad Jones, is third in the championship, finishing in the top five in all but one race so far.
The Holden driver, who was sixth overall in his best year in the V8 Supercars Championship in 2013, is confident he is on the right track ahead of this weekend's third stop at Winton Raceway.
"It's a really good foundation to build from. It's my best ever start to the V8 Supercars Championship season," Coulthard said.
He leads a purposeful performance from all three New Zealand drivers, with Shane van Gisbergen sixth and Scott McLaughlin seventh.
Van Gisbergen and McLaughlin already have two podiums each but it is Coulthard who leads the way in the championship.
"Consistency is the key. You have to be smart about it. Is the risk to push through a tight gap worth it or not? If you can collect good points every round then that is the best scenario if you want to be in championship contention at the end of the year."
The 31-year-old, who is based in Melbourne, hopes that his knowledge of the tricky Winton track and a quicker car for the all-important qualifying will see him continue to prosper this weekend.
"As a race car we are better but as a qualifying car it still needs some work. Last year we qualified top four on average last. It's a bit baffling where our qualifying pace has gone. I've always believed that qualifying is the easiest time to pass cars. If you can qualify at the front then generally you race at the front."
One of the big challenges is the new qualifying system for the 100-kilometre races, with just 10 minutes allotted to determine grid placings.
"I made an error on one lap in Tasmania last weekend and that just did not give any time to get in a good lap. The new system brings accuracy back in - you have to nail that one lap you get. The intensity for qualifying has gone up a level and it is very difficult to post a time in just 10 minutes."
The team, based in the rural town of Albury uses Winton as their test track, although Coulthard says it is very changeable in weather and track conditions.
"I got a podium there last year and Brigthy [team-mate Jason Bright] got one the year before so the cars are good, we just need to maximise it on the day."
He would dearly love to return to the podium this weekend to prime him for the next stop back home at the ITM 500 Auckland at Pukekohe Park Raceway over Anzac weekend.
"To race in front of a home is so special. I don't get to race at home [in New Zealand] nearly enough. For it to be on Anzac weekend with so much history between Australia and New Zealand, I think it is going to be petty special."
Tomorrow sees two 10-minute qualifying sessions for the day's two races each over 100km at Winton with a 200km race with two mandatory stops on Sunday.