Shane van Gisbergen has become the third driver to win more than one race of the 2016 Supercars Championship season by claiming victory in Sunday’s action-packed race to close out the Darwin Triple Crown round at Hidden Valley Raceway.
The Red Bull Racing driver steered clear from the front in a race which featured a number of crashes – one of which sent fellow Holden driver Lee Holdsworth to hospital with a fractured pelvis – to win ahead of Winton double-winner Tim Slade and Craig Lowndes.
Seven of the top-ten finishers were Holden runners, with Will Davison and James Courtney rounding out the top-five places.
The start of the race proved chaotic. The field managed to survive the usually fraught first turn, but got little further than that after contact between Fabian Coulthard and Chaz Mostert, who both sustained major damage after hitting each other and then the wall.
That was nothing compared to poor Holdsworth, who slammed his CS Racing Holden sideways into the opposite wall – which until recently was just an earth embankment. Safety crews were quickly on the scene to extract the injured driver, who was taken to hospital complaining of back and leg pain and subsequently diagnosed with a fractured pelvis.
The race restart was attempted on Lap 8, but once again there was contact: this time reigning champion Mark Winterbottom was the culprit, drilling the back of Todd Kelly’s Nissan under braking for Turn 1 as the pair disputed third place and tried to keep Shane van Gisbergen at bay.
Kelly would drop to fifteenth after making a pit stop for repairs, while Winterbottom also had to get his damage fixed and was then hit with a drive-through penalty for his troubles.
It would be an appalling race for Winterbottom, who copped a second drive-through penalty late in the race when he tipped the Erebus Motorsport Holden of Aaren Russell into a spin. He finished a lowly 20th and fell to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
They weren’t the only drivers to strike trouble on the restart. DJR Team Penske driver Scott Pye his David Reynolds in the tight midfield bunch before firing across the circuit and collecting the Nissan of yesterday’s race-winner, Michael Caruso. Pye’s damage led to almost instant retirement from the race, triggering a near-instant recall of the Safety Car.
Lowndes and van Gisbergen formed a Triple Eight Engineering 1-2 behind the Safety Car, which pulled in at the end of Lap 15. Their positions were immediately reversed when Lowndes outbraked himself at Turn 1, giving van Gisbergen the lead.
The New Zealander’s run to victory was fairly straightforward from that point, as he kept enough in hand to ensure Lowndes could not counter-attack. The pair made their second pit stops on Lap 33, but were split by Slade, who rapidly pitted a lap later to rejoin in second place.
The trio ran in that order for the rest of the race, although Lowndes would drop back with another mistake at Turn 1. A third Safety Car – this time for track debris – bunched the field back together on Lap 60, but van Gisbergen was up to the task and kept clear of any threat to win by 1.5 seconds.
Will Davison backed up a solid Saturday race with fourth place thanks to a clever pit strategy. He was one of many driver to pit on the opening lap when the Safety Car was called, but switched to a three-stop strategy by pitting again during the second Safety Car period to take on more of his compulsory minimum fuel drop.
That ensured his final pit stop would be quicker than his rivals, giving him vital track position when he cycled through the pits quicker than everyone else.
James Courtney drove outstandingly to finish fifth after starting a lowly twentieth on the grid, having vaulted to an incredible sixth place by the end of the first Safety Car period and pit stop cycle.
Caruso survived his early run-in with Pye to finish sixth as the best non-Holden driver, ahead of Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup.
Whincup still leads the Drivers’ Championship standings, with a 30-point margin over teammate Lowndes. McLaughlin is a further 15 points adrift.
|2016 V8 Supercars CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown – Race 13 Top-10 Finishers (70 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Time|
|1.||Shane van Gisbergen||Triple Eight Engineering||1:32:52.690|
|2.||Tim Slade||Brad Jones Racing||+ 1.566|
|3.||Craig Lowndes||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 1.961|
|4.||Will Davison||TEKNO Autosports||+ 2.598|
|5.||James Courtney||Holden Racing Team||+ 6.206|
|6.||Michael Caruso||Nissan Motorsport||+ 7.482|
|7.||Scott McLaughlin||Polestar GRM Volvo||+ 8.223|
|8.||Jamie Whincup||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 8.827|
|9.||David Reynolds||Erebus Motorsport||+ 9.242|
|10.||James Moffat||Nissan Motorsport||+ 9.942|
Image via Red Bull Content Pool