Shane van Gisbergen has closed the gap at the top of the standings with victory in the first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race at The Bend Motorsport Park.
Van Gisbergen passed Red Bull Holden Racing Team team-mate Jamie Whincup on Lap 5 and went on to claim a fourth win in five races, ahead of the Nissans of Rick Kelly (#15 Castrol Altima) and Michael Caruso (#23 Industrial Athlete Altima).
Scott McLaughlin (#17 Shell V-Power Racing FGX Falcon) finished sixth after being picked off by a resurgent Whincup, who had been double stacked in pit lane, on Lap 20 and saw his championship lead cut to 41 points as a result.
Whincup and van Gisbergen had locked out the front row and it was the former that got the jump from pole position, on the inside of the main straight.
The Triple Eight pair had bolted to a 2.2s lead on the standing lap, which they nearly doubled again after Lap 2.
Van Gisbergen passed Whincup on Lap 5 while Caruso in third position was intent on holding out Kelly, even when the latter got on his inside at Turn 6.
The top two continued to pull away while Kelly finally passed his team-mate when Caruso made an error at Turn 14 on Lap 6.
The Safety Car was called next lap due to Garth Tander’s Wilson Security ZB Commodore stopping on the apex of Turn 18 as a result of a crank angle sensor failure, by which time Whincup was over six seconds ahead of Kelly.
Tander had perhaps been fortuitous to make the start at all given that Car #33 had died on its way to the grid pre-race.
A handful of cars had already taken their compulsory pit stop and the Safety Car prompted the rest to do so, meaning that the #1 ZB Commodore of Whincup had to stack behind the #97 ZB Commodore.
Whincup dropped to eighth as a result, while behind van Gisbergen the order of Kelly, Caruso, Mark Winterbottom (#5 The Bottle-O FGX Falcon), McLaughlin, and Will Davison (#230 Milwaukee FGX Falcon) was unchanged.
Van Gisbergen had a healthy 0.66s margin across the stripe when the race restarted on Lap 10 and effectively became a 15-lap sprint.
Kelly continued to run second and Caruso third until the chequered flag, although the split from first to second grew to 4.83s with a lap to go and blew out to 6.26s after all 24 laps were done.
“Awesome race,” said van Gisbergen.
“Had a good battle with Jamie at the start and then unfortunately he had to get put back, but Rick put a lot of pressure on and it was really good.
“But then it was just about staying on the track. It was so hard, it was so one-line, it was very easy to make a mistake so just tried to behave.
“But (it was) awesome. Thanks to Red Bull Holden Racing Team, really good day, and hopefully we can do it tomorrow.”
Kelly said, “We’re pretty excited to achieve that at a brand new track here at The Bend.
“Good little battle with Michael as well, stoked to have him on the podium with us so it’s a good way to start a fresh track.”
As the winner became all but a foregone conclusion, the intrigue moved to who would finish fourth as McLaughlin tailed Winterbottom for several laps and even got down the inside of the Tickford Falcon at Turn 17 but couldn’t make the move stick.
After Whincup cleared Davison courtesy of a slick criss-cross at Turn 1/Turn 2 with six laps to go, he quickly closed up on the back of Car #17.
McLaughlin didn’t try to fight when he and Whincup arrived together at the same braking zone two laps later, and the 2017 champion repeated the manoeuvre on Winterbottom another lap after that.
There was then a resumption in the pressure from the championship leader to the 2015 champ, but Winterbottom held on to fifth position.
Davison took seventh while James Courtney was pacey before and after the Safety Car as the #25 Boost Mobile ZB Commodore finished eighth from 24th on the grid.
Craig Lowndes similarly rose from 25th to 10th in the #888 Autobarn ZB Commodore, behind Chaz Mostert (#55 Supercheap Auto FGX Falcon).
Other notables were Fabian Coulthard (#12 DJR Team Penske FGX Falcon) in 14th and David Reynolds (#9 Penrite ZB Commodore) in 17th.
There will be a post-race investigation into an incident involving Jack Le Brocq (#19 Tekno Autosports ZB Commodore) and Anton De Pasquale (#99 Erebus Motorsport ZB Commodore) at Turn 1 on Lap 1.
Both spun into the infield after apparent contact, and they went on to finish 16th and 24th, respectively.
Tander made for 28 finishers from as many starters after he returned to the circuit and went on to take the chequered flag six laps down.
Wildcards Macauley Jones (#4 DrillPro ZB Commodore) and Kurt Kostecki (#42 Arcoplate VF Commodore) were 25th and 27th, split by Todd Hazelwood in the #35 Bigmate VF Commodore.
The Sunday Supercars program begins with Armor All Qualifying for Race 23 at 1120 local time/1150 AEST.
Results: Race 22, OTR SuperSprint – The Bend Updated
|1||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:23.2330|
|2||15||Castrol Racing||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||24||48:29.4932|
|3||23||Industrial Athlete Racing||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||24||48:32.1452|
|4||1||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:36.1200|
|5||5||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG/X||24||48:39.0562|
|6||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Falcon FG/X||24||48:39.6329|
|7||230||Milwaukee Racing||Will Davison||Ford Falcon FG/X||24||48:40.0087|
|8||25||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||James Courtney||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:40.4716|
|9||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG/X||24||48:41.6521|
|10||888||Autobarn Lowndes Racing||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:42.5916|
|11||8||X-Convenience – Mobil Racing||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:43.8327|
|12||14||Freightliner Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:46.0109|
|13||6||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG/X||24||48:48.1613|
|14||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG/X||24||48:50.5844|
|15||21||Team CoolDrive||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:51.2716|
|16||19||Tekno Autosport||Jack Le Brocq||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:56.7614|
|17||9||Erebus Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:56.9960|
|18||2||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||24||48:57.3160|
|19||7||Plus Fitness Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Nissan Altima||24||48:57.8729|
|20||18||Preston Hire Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore ZB||24||49:03.0049|
|21||34||Wilson Security Racing GRM||James Golding||Holden Commodore ZB||24||49:05.1303|
|22||56||RABBLE.club Racing||Richie Stanaway||Ford Falcon FG/X||24||49:06.5158|
|23||78||Team Harvey Norman||Simona de Silvestro||Nissan Altima||24||49:06.9479|
|24||99||Erebus Motorsport||Anton De Pasquale||Holden Commodore ZB||24||49:08.5961|
|25||4||DrillPro Racing||Macauley Jones||Holden Commodore ZB||24||49:08.8113|
|26||35||Bigmate Racing||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore VF||24||49:21.1911|
|27||42||Arcoplate Racing||Kurt Kostecki||Holden Commodore VF||24||49:30.8822|
|28||33||Wilson Security Racing GRM||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore ZB||18||50:46.2683|
Drivers’ championship Updated
|2||Shane van Gisbergen||2640|
|18||Jack Le Brocq||1193|
|20||Anton De Pasquale||1063|
|22||Simona de Silvestro||906|