Shane van Gisbergen is cautious of his chances of a repeat victory in tomorrow’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint finale after getting stuck in traffic during the middle stint of Race 23.
Van Gisbergen qualified on Armor All Pole Position, shook off early pressure from Cameron Waters, and effectively led every lap of the first race at Pukekohe Park Raceway.
However, a run of around 15 laps stuck a few positions behind the nominal race leader, due to an early Safety Car, has the Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver wary.
Van Gisbergen took up fifth position with the race neutralised and remained there until the second pit stop cycle began, despite trailing a seemingly struggling Anton De Pasquale.
It was only once those in front of him, who were wrongfooted strategically by the Safety Car, took their second pit stops that the New Zealander could get back in front.
Van Gisbergen has been vocal this weekend about the difficulty of following given Supercars’ current aerodynamic configurations, which he alluded to again.
“It took a while for the tyres to come on but once the car got going it was racing until the end,” said the 2016 champion.
“It’s a dream come true to claim pole position and have a win here at Pukekohe today, but we are not going to get ahead of ourselves.
“As we saw today, the car can still be better tomorrow because in the middle sector we got stuck and couldn’t pass.
“We really need to maximise tomorrow’s qualifying session again to start up the front of the grid and not get stuck behind.”
As if to underline van Gisbergen’s comments, team-mate Jamie Whincup, who was one of those four that headed him under Safety Car, got back into contention by rolling out a series of fast laps once he got to the lead of the race in that middle stint.
Despite needing to take on around 50 litres less fuel, or almost seven seconds’ worth, than Whincup did at their respective second pit stops, van Gisbergen resumed from his visit to the lane with the other Triple Eight entry right behind.
They drifted apart in the laps which followed, after Whincup was initially told on his radio to “Hold position”, and while Whincup was ultimately penalised post-race for an earlier incident, it might have been a different story on the race track had #88 managed to clear #97 at the start of that final stint.
Tomorrow’s Virgin Australia Supercars Championship program begins with Armor All Qualifying for Race 24 at 1120 local time/0920 AEST, an Armor All Top 10 Shootout at 1340 local time, and Race 24 of the season at 1610 local time.