Shane Van Gisbergen has kept his championship challenge on track by taking the win in Sunday’s 200km at Queensland Raceway.
Taking advantage of a front row start, the 2016 series champion was able to convert the qualifying speed in to race pace, winning ahead of his closest championship rival as he leaves Ipswich not having dropped any points to his fellow Kiwi.
Scott McLaughin was able to take his tenth pole for the season in qualifying, just edging out Van Gisbergen for the top spot. Behind the two Kiwis on the front row, Chaz Mostert lined up third with Fabian Coulthard beside him. David Reynolds, Rick Kelly, Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes, Michael Caruso and Richie Stanaway started on the first five rows.
For the second day in a row, Van Gisbergen got a rocket start off the line but now with no cars in front of him, he was able to take the lead into turn one. He put a small air gap on McLaughlin and Mostert though the pair closed back up to the lead car, separated by less than a second in the opening laps.
Contact between Walkinshaw Andretti United team-mates Scott Pye and James Courtney at turn four put the latter into the side of Mark Winterbottom, giving the Commodore steering damage and the Falcon busted rear suspension which was soon fixed.
McLaughlin and Mostert pitted early on lap 10, each short-filling their cars while Van Gisbergen kept circulating in the lead. Coulthard came in next, proving the undercut of fresh tyres and McLaughlin and Mostert were far ahead of him when he rejoined the circuit.
Van Gisbergen came in for his stop on lap 20, taking on a much bigger load of fuel than his competitors as McLaughlin and Mostert blasted past him in the pits. The advantage of fresh tyres soon paid dividends as he got past Coulthard who had nothing to fight with not far in to his stint.
After being passed by Van Gisbergen for second on the road, Mostert came in for his second stop on lap 34, emerging into clear air to put in clean laps. McLaughlin came in on the next tour, retaining his lead ahead of Mostert with Van Gisbergen still to pit.
Right on schedule, Van Gisbergen pitted on lap 37 for his second stop, taking on less fuel than the #17 and utilising that advantage to come out ahead of McLaughlin. Coulthard and Whincup (who took on a large amount of fuel in his first stop) came in on the next lap, the defending champion jumping the DJR Team Penske car due to a short fill.
Van Gisbergen looked to control the final stint though McLaughlin started to close the gap as Mostert found form in the Tickford car. Pushing for his first podium, and win, of the season, Mostert threw everything at the last 15 laps but quickly took away his tyre life as McLaughlin raged up on the back of Van Gisbergen in front.
As Van Gisbergen extended the gap to leave McLaughlin behind, Whincup started to range up to the back of Mostert, making use of fresher tyres. While he got close and challenged for the final podium spot, Mostert held on for his first podium finish of the year.
Whincup had to settle for fourth while Coulthard came home a solid fifth. Tim Slade, David Reynolds, Craig Lowndes, Rick Kelly and Jack Le Brocq all finished in the top ten.
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