Shane van Gisbergen has survived a torrid race to claim the 2017 Australian Supercars Championship title, finishing the penultimate race of the season in third to edge out teammate Jamie Whincup for the title.
The 27-year-old New Zealander needed to finish in the top-five to clinch the crown, but made his task for a maiden Drivers’ Championship title that little bit tougher by earning a drive-through penalty for contact with last year’s champion Mark Winterbottom.
“[I’m] sorry to Mark, I went up the inside and didn’t commit,” he reflected after the race.
After claiming a vital seventh pole position of the season, van Gisbergen got too much wheelspin at the start and handed the lead to Whincup as the pack sprinted to Turn 1. He fell to fourth by the first corner and lost further ground when he was squeezed into the Turn 2/3 chicane run-off on the opening lap.
Trying to recover lost ground, an ill-judged passing attempt on Winterbottom saw him tip the #1 Prodrive Racing Ford into a half-spin which was the trigger for his impromptu tour through the pit lane as punishment.
The penalty dropped him well down the order, forcing van Gisbergen into a famous recovery drive which was helped by a Safety Car interruption on Lap 50 that helped compress the field.
Restarting in ninth place, he quickly picked his way past Will Davison, Rick Kelly, Todd Kelly and Craig Lowndes to move into the all-important fifth place with ten laps to go.
Fresher tyres helped him close to the back of the scrap for third place between HRT’s James Courtney and the Volvo of Scott McLaughlin. He moved past McLaughlin into fourth, and the trio staged an epic dogfight for the final podium spot over three thrilling final laps of the 74-lap race.
Third place – thanks to a brilliant last-lap overtake of an ultra-defensive Courtney – was van Gisbergen’s reward, along with a richly deserved title.
Whincup was able to cruise to victory ahead of HRT’s Garth Tander, while Scott McLaughlin managed to sneak by Courtney on the final lap to claim fourth.
Rick Kelly took his Nissan to sixth place ahead of Will Davison and Craig Lowndes. Tim Slade and David Reynolds – who started from the back of the grid after being excluded from qualifying – rounded out the top ten.
|2016 Australian Supercars Coates Hire Sydney 500 – Race 28 Top-10 Finishers (74 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Jamie Whincup||Triple Eight Engineering||1:55:51.331|
|2.||Garth Tander||Holden Racing Team||+ 6.839|
|3.||Shane van Gisbergen||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 9.834|
|4.||Scott McLaughlin||Polestar GRM Volvo||+ 10.390|
|5.||James Courtney||Holden Racing Team||+ 10.835|
|6.||Rick Kelly||Nissan Motorsport||+ 17.364|
|7.||Will Davison||TEKNO Autosports||+ 17.957|
|8.||Craig Lowndes||Triple Eight Engineering||+ 23.317|
|9.||Tim Slade||Brad Jones Racing||+ 25.034|
|10.||David Reynolds||Erebus Motorsport||+ 26.598|
Image via Motorsport.com