Chris McKeen


Fabian Coulthard was in Auckland on Tuesday for the launch of this year's Pukekohe round of the Supercars series


Supercars stay in Pukekohe for 2017

New Zealand Supercars driver Fabian Coulthard is promising that this year's Pukekohe round will be more exciting than in 2016.

Last year there were two 100km races on the Saturday and Sunday, with no pit stops for fuel or tyres.

It resulted in boring processional racing, with no tactics and little overtaking as the cars usually finished in the same order as they qualified.

Thankfully, for the 2017 event, which takes place on November 3-5, organisers have changed the schedule to one 200km race each day and Coulthard says it will result in a better experience for the drivers and spectators.

"It's a fantastic change," Coulthard said.

"We saw last year that it was very difficult to pass, everyone's on the same tyre quality, because there weren't pitstops.

"But with longer races, there will be a bit of strategy involved and that will make a big difference for the fans and we'll be able to put on a better show."

Coulthard is lying in third place in this year's Supercars championship, with his DJR Team Penske team-mate Scott McLaughlin, the current leader.

It should be a thrilling finish to this year's championship with Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen both in contention and as Pukekohe is the penultimate round in the season, it could be where the champions is crowned.

For Coulthard to be in contention at this point is a major turnaround from last year, his first with DJR Team Penske.

In 2016 he had a miserable time, finishing 12th in the championship with the big budget outfit.

But lessons were learnt during that campaign and the team now rival Triple Eight as the category's pace setters.

"If you look from where we were last year to where we are now, there's been an improvement in leaps and bounds," he said.

"We put in a lot of effort last year and I felt like we got the car to a point where it was consistent, we just weren't fast enough to contend for more podiums.

"We put in the ground work last year and I feel that's aided us to where we are now, but we've had the introduction of new personnel who've had some new ideas.

"Last year we struggled to have someone to make the decisions, but now with Ludo (Lacroix) as the technical director, we've got someone to take us in the right direction and that's made a big difference as you can see in the results.

"Scotty and I as a driving group are working together and we've got an engineering group that's working together too and that breeds success."

The championship heads to Sydney next week for the final round before the three endurance races at Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast.

It will be these longer rounds, where the Enduro Cup is also up for grabs,  where the championship can be won or lost

"I'll evaluate my championship after the Enduro Cup," Coulthard said.

"Lots can go right or wrong and there are 900 points on offer at those three events, so it can make or break your year.

"We need a good run, I've got confidence in my co-driver, Tony d'Alberto, he's been in the car a few times throughout the year.

"Come enduro time we'll be prepared and hopefully we can put on a good show."

Meanwhile, although it's not yet confirmed, Supercars and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (Ateed) are close to signing off on a three-year extension to keep the Pukekohe round of the series through to 2020.