THE "underdog" tag sits well with Fabian Coulthard.
The English-born, Kiwi-raised, Gold Coast-based driver is a man few expected to see in the box seat to win the championship with three rounds remaining.
He was no sure thing to even make it as a Supercars driver after some rocky early years.
"There was times where it was touch and go, I may not get a ride for next year but thankfully I was picked up by someone else and I was able to continue my dream of racing Supercars," he said yesterday.
From the moment that he first appeared in the category back in 2004, Coulthard was forced to hop from team to team as opportunities proved limited.
He was replaced not once but twice by former champion Russell Ingall in what Coulthard said were sponsorship-motivated decisions.
He had a horror 2010 season, including a frightening high-speed rollover at Bathurst, placing 23rd in the end-of-year standings.
It was only when he landed at Brad Jones Racing in 2012 that he truly secured himself as a permanent fixture on the grid, scoring his maiden race win the following season.
Four respectable campaigns at BJR saw him signed by DJR Team Penske.
Dick Johnson's team have shot to the front of the Supercars field this year.
"I feel like I could have done this sooner," Coulthard said.
"I was unlucky that I was moving from team to team every two years ... what doesn't knock you down makes you stronger and I think I have become a stronger person for it."
Coulthard, who has twins due soon, had led much of the 2017 championship before a poor Townsville round dented his title hopes.
But a smart drive in a wild Bathurst 1000 this month, as key rivals Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup both had engine dramas, has propelled him back into the lead.
He enters this weekend's Gold Coast 600 with a 91-point buffer over Whincup.
Even still, there are many who don't see him as a genuine threat - and that's fine by Coulthard.
"How good is that?" he responded.
"I'm happy with that. It doesn't bother me at all.
"At the end of the day, I try to let the results speak for themselves on the track.
"I have always been the underdog."
Coulthard intends to continue his smart approach but believes further race wins will still be pivotal to winning the championship.
The Gold Coast remains an event that he is yet to conquer though.
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