Reigning Australian Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen has dominated proceedings to win the opening 250-kilometre race of the Clipsal Adelaide 500 season-opener.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver won the 78-lap race by almost fifteen seconds ahead of DJR Team Penske’s Fabian Coulthard and Mobile 1 HSV Racing’s James Courtney.
After a narrow qualifying that saw van Gisbergen grab provisional pole on Friday from Coulthard’s teammate, Scott McLaughlin, by an incredible 0.0001 seconds, it was evident that this was going to be a closely fought weekend.
In Saturday’s Top-10 qualifying shootout, van Gisbergen capitalised on being the last driver on track by officially claiming the first pole of the season. Fabian Coulthard would start alongside him on the front row, while the Prodrive Racing Fords of Chaz Mostert and Mark Winterbottom sandwiched fourth-placed Courtney. Scott McLaughlin, Jamie Whincup, Rick Kelly, Cameron Waters and David Reynolds completed the top ten.
Off the line, it was a drag race to Turn 1 between van Gisbergen, Coulthard and a fast-starting Courtney, but the reigning champion gained the upper hand into the Senna Chicane.
His lead was short-lived, with his compatriot Coulthard getting a better run out of Turn 7 and able to slingshot past before the notorious high-speed Turn 8 right-hander. Further back, Will Davison wasn’t as lucky through the corner and became the season’s first retiree when he found the wall, helped to no end by two cars trying to get past him on the inside at the same time.
Having found the lead, Coulthard built an early lead as his car looked solid in the opening laps but van Gisbergen soon closed in with Courtney following suit.
Meanwhile in the midfield there was drama for Chaz Mostert, who had his fair share of issues early on, twice locking up and spearing off the track at the final turn and Turn 11 over the course of two laps.
The first round of stops saw Coulthard retaining his lead from Courtney, and Whincup (who pitted on the first lap, wrongly anticipating that Davison’s accident would trigger a Safety Car). Van Gisbergen dropped to a net fourth, having taken on a higher level of fuel to run longer in his middle stint. The timing of the first safety car of 2017 came out thanks to Tim Slade ending up in the tyre barriers, awkwardly receiving a helping hand from new Brad Jones Racing teammate Nick Percat.
McLaughlin’s day went downhill quickly as the Safety Car period ended, after the DJR debutante was given a drive-through penalty by weaving to warm his tyres after the Safety Car’s lights had been turned off. It’s a big error and an even bigger penalty under the series’ rules, and the tour through pit lane dropped him the back of the pack and out of contention.
Also striking trouble were Prodrive Racing returnee Jason Bright and LD Motorsport stand-in Taz Douglas, who both suffered cool-suit failures – a major health risk in the high ambient temperatures. The former had water dumped on him and his front windows removed by his mechanics during a stop, while the latter temporarily retired to get out of his car and into a bin full of ice to pull his body temperature down – he later returned to finish the race.
The second and final cycle of pit stops saw van Gisbergen’s strategy pay dividends, with his shorter fuel stop putting him back into the lead ahead of Coulthard and Courtney.
Whincup removed himself from possible podium contention by tagging Mark Winterbottom’s Ford into a spin, although the stewards later ruled the accident a racing incident.
Up in front, van Gisbergen steadily pulled away and built an insurmountable lead, while Coulthard and Courtney battled over second place. Courtney was stronger on the brakes, but couldn’t get close enough to Coulthard’s slippery Ford down the straights to attempt a pass.
The final race order remained relatively unchanged, with van Gisbergen starting his title defence in the same way he closed out 2016: with victory on a street circuit. Coulthard held out Courtney to complete the podium, while Prodrive’s Cameron Waters finished a superb fourth – equalling his best Supercars race finish – by beating Nissan’s Rick Kelly over the finish line.
Whincup finished sixth, ahead of Percat, Lowndes (who lost two places in the closing laps as his fuel tank started to dry up), James Moffat and Michael Caruso completed the top ten.
|2017 Australian Supercars Clipsal Adelaide 500 – Race 1 Top-10 Finishers (78 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||1:49:25.801|
|2.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power DJR Team Penske||+ 14.712|
|3.||James Courtney||Mobil 1 HSV Racing||+ 15.560|
|4.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Prodrive Racing||+ 22.878|
|5.||Rick Kelly||Sengled Racing Nissan Motorsport||+ 23.419|
|6.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 24.224|
|7.||Nick Percat||Clipsal Brad Jones Racing||+ 28.907|
|8.||Craig Lowndes||TeamVortex||+ 32.755|
|9.||Chaz Mostert||SuperCheap Auto Racing||+ 33.881|
|10.||James Moffat||Wilson Security Racing GRM||+ 35.206|
Image via Motorsport.com