David Reynolds has been awarded additional points for the fastest lap in Race 17 after an action-packed weekend in Darwin. The 2022 Merlin Darwin Triple Crown was Round 6 of the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship and the series’ inaugural indigenous round, which saw Reynolds in the game from the first practice session on Friday.
“It was a mixed weekend where we once again showed flashes of speed but had some bad luck and didn’t quite put all the pieces together,” said Reynolds. “The great news is that we’re consistently in the hunt and not just at one type of circuit – we seem to have genuine pace everywhere.”
The #26 Penrite Racing Mustang was quick out of the box, Reynolds Grove Racing Team’s decision to experiment wildly with set-up paying immediate dividends with serious pace in Friday’s practice sessions.
Three-stage knockout qualifying on Saturday saw Reynolds make it through to the Top Ten Shootout, where he pushed through to post the seventh-fastest time for that afternoon’s 38-lap afternoon race.
“We’ve shown pace and we’re reasonably consistent, our car is a Top 5 car so we should be able to have a proper crack in the race,” said Reynolds after the Top Ten Shootout.
Yet Race 16 was one to forget, with a feisty opening lap seeing Reynolds dicing with Mark Winterbottom and Bryce Fullwood – the latter turning him around at the last corner after contact. While Fullwood was given a 15-second penalty, the incident dropped Reynolds to the back of the field after spending three laps in the pits as the team repaired the damaged Mustang.
“We would have been a contender in that race if it didn’t happen so it’s a shame,” said Reynolds. “On the upside, our pace has been in the Top 5 this weekend and we’ve been making small improvements as we go, so we’re not done yet.”
Sunday saw a much stronger start for Reynolds, his show of speed seeing him put the Penrite Racing Mustang on the front row, a mere 0.047sec off pole with a blistering lap as the session ended.
Reynolds’ P2 start saw him with his most competitive run of the weekend with a better start off the mark to drag race Waters into the first corner – before a huge accident further down the field saw a red flag called and the race suspended.
The re-start from Lap 4 saw Reynolds in third position, after defending strongly against championship leader Shane van Gisbergen, before race leader Waters and second-placed Davison both pitted after Lap 18.
Last of the entire field to carry out his compulsory pit-stop, Reynolds stayed out until Lap 24 when he pitted from the race lead for four fresh tyres – whereas leader Waters had only changed his rears. Rejoining in ninth place and 15.5sec from race leader Waters, Reynolds began to charge, rounding up Andre Heimgartner for eighth place and setting fastest lap after fastest lap as he overtook Chaz Mostert, Winterbottom and Jack Le Brocq.
Making life harder for Reynolds was race control confirming that the race would be ‘time certain’ due to the delay caused by the red flag, effectively reducing the 38-lap race by a lap.
At the chequered flag Reynolds had impressively whittled down the 15.5sec deficit from his pit-stop to only 3.6sec and good enough for fifth place. His strong performance earnt him bonus championship points for the race’s fastest lap. Still, Reynolds was looking for more.
“We ran four tyres and obviously my car’s probably a bit faster on four [new] tyres so we did the fastest lap, but it just didn’t get the gain that we thought we would’ve got,” he said. “We thought we could have challenged for a podium there and we ended up fifth. We’re losing a bit of time down the straight, and it just adds up over 40 laps.”
The final 38-lap contest of the weekend, Race 18 saw Reynolds start from 11th after qualifying 12th – Scott Pye failing to start the race elevating Reynolds to up a position on the starting grid. In contrast to Race 17, Reynolds was first to pit, stopping for two tyres on Lap 7. From there, he managed his pace and tyre wear to climb through the field and finish the race where he qualified.
Reynolds remains fifth in the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship on 1111 points. Reynolds and the #26 Penrite Racing Mustang will be on track again at the NTI Townsville 500 on July 8-10, 2022, with tickets available here.