AFTER a frustrating 18 months, the light at the end of the tunnel shone bright yesterday for Fabian Coulthard.
The 13-time Repco Supercars Championship race winner last year went from title-winning DJR Team Penske to minnows Team Sydney and subsequently spent the entire season mired in the back half of the field.
What’s worse was he then was bundled off the full-time grid, despite holding a 2022 contract, when Jonathon Webb sold out in January, paving the way for what is now Peter Xiberras’ PremiAir Racing.
Coulthard though landed on his feet with a plum co-drive at Walkinshaw Andretti United, and yesterday at Sandown he received a welcome reminder of his front-running capabilities.
After primary #25 driver Chaz Mostert had placed second in opening practice, Coulthard led a chunk of the dedicated co-driver session and wound up third, only behind Triple Eight Race Engineering’s Jamie Whincup and Garth Tander.
“It was nice to get back in the car. You don’t realise how much you miss it until you don’t get to do it, so I actually had a lot of fun in that session,” Coulthard said.
Of being back in competitive equipment, the 40-year-old beamed: “It’s awesome.
“For me – don’t get me wrong, it’s a practice session – but it’s nice to know that I haven’t forgotten what to do.
“Last year was a struggle at times and it was a real battle, but to come out the other side and to be with Chaz and a good team, it feels normal.
“I’ve driven at good teams before and it’s just nice to drive a car that’s capable.”
There is an element of familiarity at the Clayton organisation, given he raced under the Walkinshaw banner before his career took off at Brad Jones Racing and DJRTP.
“I know all of the team, I drove there years ago and there’s a lot of familiar faces from 2010 and ’11,” said Coulthard, who has attended a number of events this season as part of integrating into the squad.
“It’s just getting yourself acquainted with the car and the buttons and everything like that, but so far so good.”
Mostert returns to the wheel of the Mobil 1 Optus Holden today, with Practice 3 starting at 10:20am.