Shane van Gisbergen has closed out his career with the TEKNO Autosports team in style by winning Sunday’s season-ending V8 Supercars Championship race at Sydney Olympic Park.
The New Zealander dominated proceedings over the 74-lap race. holding out future teammate Jamie Whincup by less than a second at the end of an action-packed race. Whincup’s result was enough to ensure that his Triple Eight Race Engineering team would claim the Teams’ Championship title.
After being narrowly edged out by HRT’s James Courtney for pole position in a tense Top 10 Shootout earlier in the day, van Gisbergen was determined to close out his 2015 campaign by claiming his first win of the season.
Starting from the front row, the New Zealander was unable to get the jump on Courtney at the start, but it didn’t take long before he muscled his way by – albeit controversially.
On Lap 4, van Gisbergen got a run on Courtney on the approach to Turn 9 and made a lunge for the inside of the left-hander. Courtney tried to cover, but made his defensive move far too late and squeezed van Gisbergen to the apex; the pair predictably made contact and Courtney was turfed into the wall, causing damage to the right-rear of his Holden Commodore.
Courtney was forced into the pits for an early pit stop and repairs to his damaged bodywork, but that later caused further troubles when his rear bumper worked itself loose and delaminated his right-rear tyre.
Van Gisbergen was able to move into the lead after his contact with Courtney, and he was soon being pursued by Whincup, who managed to nip ahead of Mark Winterbottom on Lap 10 thanks to a small mistake at the Turn 2 chicane by the Prodrive Racing driver.
Seconds later, the first Safety Car of the race was called when Tim Slade crashed his SuperCheap Auto Racing Holden heavily at Turn 11. Slade slammed head-on into the barriers thanks to a stuck throttle, and despite major front-end damage to his car, he was thankfully uninjured.
The Safety Car triggered the first round of pit stops for the majority of the drivers, setting the scene for an exciting battle for the effective lead between van Gisbergen and Whincup over the course of their second stint.
Van Gisbergen remained ice cool throughout, leaving Whincup to make a rare error and slide up the Turn 8 escape road as their second pit stops approached. That error dropped him to third place behind Nissan’s Rick Kelly.
Whincup regained the position by making his second pit stop later than Kelly, but was still left some six seconds behind a seemingly unstoppable van Gisbergen.
That gap was trimmed to nothing thanks to a second Safety Car late in the race – this time caused by Prodrive Racing stand-in Steve Owen stopping on the circuit with a suspension failure – which left the field with a late four-lap dash to the chequered flag once the race was resumed.
Try as he might, Whincup could not find a way past van Gisbergen, leaving his future teammate to grab a potentially important psychological advantage ahead of their teaming up in 2016.
Kelly claimed a fine third – his fourth podium finish of the season – to secure ninth place in the championship standings, while Winterbottom closed out his championship-winning season by finishing in fourth place ahead of David Reynolds and championship runner-up Craig Lowndes.
Lee Holdsworth, Michael Caruso, Scott Pye and Fabian Coulthard rounded off the top ten.
|2015 V8 Supercars Coates Hire Sydney 500 – Race 35 Top-10 Finishers (74 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Time|
|1.||Shane van Gisbergen||TEKNO Autosports||1:59:24.748|
|2.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Racing / Triple 8||+ 0.406|
|3.||Rick Kelly||Nissan Motorsport||+ 2.740|
|4.||Mark Winterbottom||Prodrive Racing Australia||+ 3.678|
|5.||David Reynolds||Rod Nash Racing||+ 4.409|
|6.||Craig Lowndes||Red Bull Racing / Triple 8||+ 5.463|
|7.||Lee Holdsworth||Walkinshaw Racing||+ 6.762|
|8.||Michael Caruso||Nissan Motorsport||+ 7.415|
|9.||Scott Pye||DJR Team Penske||+ 8.049|
|10.||Fabian Coulthard||Brad Jones Racing||+ 8.693|
Images via Motorsport.com