Shane van Gisbergen has tightened up the title margin after taking a close victory over his teammate Jamie Whincup in the weekend’s final race in Townsville.

The 2016 champion won after taking pole for the race in the Top 10 shootout, being kept honest throughout the 200-kilometre sprint but finishing ahead of the pack and taking his first win since the second race of the year in Adelaide.

Qualifying led to a Top 10 shootout for the first five rows of the grid with van Gisbergen converting provisional pole to actual pole at the end of the session. Teammate Jamie Whincup was second- fastest with Rick Kelly, David Reynolds, Will Davison, Craig Lowndes, Scott McLaughlin, Nick Percat, James Courtney and Scott Pye filling the first five rows on the grid.

A clean jump off the start line meant van Gisbergen held the lead into Turn 1 as Whincup was swamped by Kelly and Reynolds off the line, dropping yesterday’s winner to fourth. Contact into the Turn 2 hairpin led to Michael Caruso spinning thanks to assistance from his teammate Simona de Silvestro; the friendly fire not what Nissan needed.

The opening tour saw McLaughlin buried in the pack, dropping to 11th despite putting in good sectors early on. The dueling Walkinshaw cars of Courtney and Pye kept fighting for long enough to drag Mostert up with them, the Tickford driver looking to capitalise on his pace to take the fastest lap from yesterday’s race.

Van Gisbergen started to open a clear gap in the first ten laps as Whincup fought back up to second place, reversing the roles of Saturday’s one-two result for the team. The order behind them stagnated as the battles for the minor places settled down heading in to the first round of pit stops.

McLaughlin was the first of the top ten to take his pit stop, coming in on Lap 13 to get away from the back of Mostert, although a fumble in the pit stop made the stationary time longer than desired. Pye was the next in, returning to the track behind the #17.

Deciding to split their strategies, Triple Eight pitted Whincup on Lap 18 to prevent an undercut from behind, emerging with clear air in front. Kelly came in next with Lowndes following on the next tour, coming out ahead of the Nissan in a close, race-long battle.

From the lead, van Gisbergen came in on Lap 24, making his first pit stop of the race. Due to the long first run and a bigger stop for fuel, he came out behind Whincup and McLaughlin while having to fight Reynolds for effective third on his rejoin lap.

As Whincup held the lead of the race at half distance, van Gisbergen held down the role of tail gunner in second with McLaughlin holding on behind them for third, though his track position was mainly down to a shorter stop. Reynolds and Lowndes engaged in a fight for fourth with the #888 car coming out on top with the cross-hairs on car #17.

The fight between McLaughlin and Lowndes continued into the pit lane, entering nose-to-tail and ending up with McLaughlin well clear of the Triple Eight machine thanks to Lowndes’ car being filled past the compulsory fuel drop. A similar battle between Kelly and Davison played out the next lap, the Nissan coming out ahead.

Whincup’s margin was wiped out thanks to traffic, allowing van Gisbergen to catch up and get past before their final stops with the Kiwi knowing he had less fuel to take on. Reynolds’ last stop came on lap 43, being passed easily by Lowndes before the Erebus left pit lane.

Coming in for his last stop, Whincup took on four tyres on Lap 48 while Van Gisbergen came in on the next lap, rejoining the track ahead of his teammate. Both Red Bull cars had a big air gap ahead of McLaughlin who enjoyed a decent margin to Lowndes behind.

A late charge from Mostert saw him start to climb through the field, getting past Courtney and Kelly with ease as he hunted down Reynolds in fifth. While the Tickford car had good pace near the end, he couldn’t get close enough to challenge for a top five spot as the laps ticked down.

Late race contact between Anton de Pasquale and Michael Caruso leading up to the second last hairpin ended up with the Nissan hitting the tyre bundles on the inside of the track. The heavy contact brought the Altima’s race to an early end, leaving officials with no choice other than bringing out the safety car with only a few laps left.

With five laps remaining, the race resumed and van Gisbergen put a gap on Whincup who followed suit by extending his margin to McLaughlin and Lowndes. On fresher tyres, Mostert was able to muscle past Reynolds for fifth and ranged up to the back of Lowndes but couldn’t make the pass.

Van Gisbergen was able to hold off his teammate as he took his first win since Sunday at Adelaide, leading home the second Red Bull 1-2 of the weekend ahead of Whincup. McLaughlin salvaged third after a poor qualifying effort as Lowndes, Mostert, Reynolds, Kelly, Coulthard, Cam Waters and Courtney finalised the top ten finishers.

2018 Australian Supercars Townsville 400 – Race 18 Final Classification (70 laps)
Pos Driver Team / Entry Result
1. Shane van Gisbergen Red Bull Holden Racing Team 1:31:05.678
2. Jamie Whincup Red Bull Holden Racing Team + 0.782
3. Scott McLaughlin Shell V-Power Racing Team + 8.534
4. Craig Lowndes Autobarn Lowndes Racing + 9.312
5. Chaz Mostert Supercheap Auto Racing Team + 9.877
6. David Reynolds Erebus Penrite Racing + 11.278
7. Rick Kelly Castrol Racing + 13.182
8. Fabian Coulthard Shell V-Power Racing Team + 13.409
9. Cameron Waters Monster Energy Racing + 14.102
10. James Courtney Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing + 15.233
11. Jack Le Brocq TEKNO Autosport + 16.400
12. Andre Heimgartner Plus Fitness Racing + 17.125
13. Mark Winterbottom The Bottle-O Racing Team + 17.424
14. Nick Percat Dunlop Racing + 17.826
15. Tim Slade Freightliner Racing + 18.729
16. Lee Holdsworth Preston Hire Racing + 19.160
17. James Golding Wilson Security Racing GRM + 19.691
18. Anton de Pasquale Erebus Penrite Racing + 21.581
19. Garth Tander Wilson Security Racing GRM 1 lap behind
20. Richie Stanaway Rabble Club Racing 1 lap behind
21. Scott Pye Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing 1 lap behind
22. Simona de Silvestro Team Harvey Norman 1 lap behind
23. Todd Hazelwood Bigmate Racing 1 lap behind
24. Tim Blanchard Team CoolDrive 2 laps behind
Not Classified Team / Entry Reason
DNF. Will Davison Milwaukee Racing Collision
DNF. Michael Caruso Drive Racing Collision

Image via Red Bull Content Pool

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Jordan Mulach

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Canberra born and raised journalist, living in Brisbane. Sports Media graduate from the University of Canberra. iRacing addict