Shane van Gisbergen has won the inaugural SuperNight race after a late race Safety Car put him in the box seat to take the win.
Starting from the second row and fighting among the top three for a majority of the race, the Kiwi took advantage of a late race Safety Car and fresh tyres to snatch the win late in the race.
Van Gisbergen’s win is his second in a row as he closes in on Scott McLaughlin’s points lead, looking to take a second title after winning the Supercars Championship crown in 2016.
A three-session qualifying format saw Scott McLaughlin take his eleventh pole for the season, starting on the front row alongside teammate Fabian Coulthard. McLaughlin’s championship rival van Gisbergen started third with Rick Kelly alongside him while Jamie Whincup, Scott Pye, Chaz Mostert, David Reynolds, Craig Lowndes and Michael Caruso started in the top ten.
An even jump off the line saw McLaughlin keep the inside line into Turn 1, going side-by-side with teammate Coulthard in the opening corners. Van Gisbergen hounded the back of Coulthard, squeezing past at Turn 6 for second place and setting his sights on McLaughlin for the lead.
Coulthard seemingly struggled early on with Whincup soon finding his way past the #12 DJR Team Penske machine at Turn 1 on the second lap; the pair made contact and were lucky not to end up off-track. Mostert looked to come with them, having to bide his time after moving up from seventh to fifth by the end of the first lap as Courtney behind him moved up five places early on.
The field started to settle down around Lap 5 with McLaughlin slowly creating a gap to van Gisbergen who was two seconds ahead of Whincup. Coulthard kept Mostert behind him as the Walkinshaw Andretti United pairing of Courtney and Pye kept close to each other.
Rick Kelly was the biggest loser of the opening ten laps, dropping five spots as he struggled to switch his tyres on from the race start. Mostert started to harass Coulthard for fourth position, wanting to make up more places and start challenging for a podium spot.
Taking an alternate strategy, Pye pitted from seventh on Lap 12, being the first driver in the race to do so. Andre Heimgartner was parked up in the Nissan Motorsport garage on the same lap, coming in for repairs after earlier contact with Garth Tander.
The hard-charging and evergreen Craig Lowndes got up to the back of Courtney and nearly spun the #25 car, going for an ambitious move at Turn 4 but backing out at the last minute. On the next lap he found a way past, getting up into sixth place. The pair came in for their first stops on Lap 16 with the order remaining unchanged.
Mostert pitted next, emerging behind Kelly due to a longer fill as Caruso passed him on fresh tyres. McLaughlin pitted from the race lead with van Gisbergen following on Lap 18; the pair both taking on four tyres and fuel with the #17 coming out ahead but being passed by the earlier-stopping Pye coming out of the pits. McLaughlin reclaimed the effective race lead from Pye soon after.
Whincup and Coulthard followed suit into the pits on the next lap. Whincup took a short fill but still came out behind a rapid Lowndes while Coulthard dropped behind Caruso and ahead of Courtney. When the rest of the field stopped, the effective order was McLaughlin, van Gisbergen, Pye, Lowndes, Whincup, Reynolds and Mostert.
Those who took their first stops later saw a greater benefit later in the stint as the tyre degredation played into their hands, while the early stoppers struggled to keep fighting on older tyres. McLaughlin retained the lead and opened it up to van Gisbergen who was starting to come under fire from Lowndes behind him.
Lowndes took his second stop on Lap 35 with Courtney coming in as well. Crucially, Lowndes emerged with clear air ahead of him and made use of his strong pace to try and undercut those in front. Reynolds came in on the next lap, emerging ahead of Courtney although he was passed at Turn 4 thanks to the Walkinshaw car being on warm tyres.
Van Gisbergen started to struggle for pace towards the end of his second stint, lapping around a second-and-a-half slower than McLaughlin out in front on some laps while Whincup behind was quicker than the pair. The #97 came in for a stop on Lap 39, following McLaughlin who had stretched his lead to five seconds.
The duo left the pits with clear air but with Lowndes ahead after taking a short splash of fuel in his second stop. The veteran had a seven-odd second gap ahead of McLaughlin who retained the same air gap to van Gisbergen as before the stops.
Whincup and Coulthard again were the next to come in, the defending champion coming out behind his teammate while Coulthard dropped to 17th on the road, well below where his earlier rivals were running.
Lowndes retained the lead in the third stint as the race ticked down into the range of 30 laps to go, holding a lead from McLaughlin behind who was closing slowly, with Van Gisbergen closing in on his compatriot. Van Gisbergen’s pace was short lived as the Kiwi reported a front right wheel problem with the car, his gap to McLaughlin becoming stable due to a possible damaged rim.
Pye and Mostert started to duel for fifth, far away from Whincup in fourth who was some 15 seconds up the road. Courtney’s solid race came to an end with a left front upright failure, having to limp the whole lap back to the pits for repairs. Barely a lap later, his teammate Pye suffered a seemingly identical failure and was also forced into the pits.
While McLaughlin reeled in Lowndes before their final stops, he was held up behind backmarkers, undoing all the hard work of the previous few laps and leaving him to do it all over again.
Lowndes and McLaughlin came in to the pits on Lap 54, taking on fuel to the end. Requiring less fuel due to longer early stops, McLaughlin emerged ahead of Lowndes to retake the effective race lead.
Van Gisbergen was being chased by Whincup before the pair took their final stops, the gap coming to within half a second. Battling for the effective race lead, Lowndes had great pace but the race was neutralised thanks to a Safety Car. Todd Hazelwood’s Ford lost its wing on the front straight just before Lowndes was due to make a move on McLaughlin.
The Safety Car came at an unfortunate time for the Red Bull pair as Whincup had to stack behind van Gisbergen, luckily not dropping any spots on track thanks to a sizable gap back to fifth-placed Mostert. As everyone took their stops, McLaughlin led from Lowndes, van Gisbergen, Whincup and Mostert.
With 16 laps to go, the race restarted with McLaughlin leading the way across the line, opening up a gap to Lowndes who was mugged by van Gisbergen in the same way the Kiwi got past McLaughlin last year. McLaughlin led the first lap after the restart but was reeled in by van Gisbergen who had fresher tyres.
Van Gisbergen started to rattle the bar of McLaughlin, knocking the #17 around which allowed Lowndes and Whincup to range up to the pair and capitalise if anything happened. The four were split by less than a second only three laps after the restart. The exchange took a bit of pace out of van Gisbergen but he started to fire back with ten laps to go.
At Turn 3, Van Gisbergen got past McLaughlin who ran wide, slicing his way up the inside and in to the race lead. Behind him, Whincup was starting to get closer to McLaughlin, making use of his fresher Dunlop tyres. McLaughlin was able to hold him off as the laps ticked down, eventually losing out with four laps to go at Turn 7.
Slowing down on the main straight to create a formation finish, van Gisbergen won ahead of Whincup as the fireworks went off beside them, bringing home Red Bull’s second one-two of the season while McLaughlin took the last spot on the podium. The top ten was completed by Lowndes, Mostert, Kelly, Reynolds, Nick Percat, Jack Le Brocq and Tim Slade.
|2018 Australian Supercars Red Rooster Sydney SuperNight 300 – Race 21 Final Classification (77 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||2:04:32.239|
|2.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 0.206|
|3.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 4.272|
|4.||Craig Lowndes||Autobarn Lowndes Racing||+ 5.759|
|5.||Chaz Mostert||Supercheap Auto Racing Team||+ 8.347|
|6.||Rick Kelly||Castrol Racing||+ 9.063|
|7.||David Reynolds||Erebus Penrite Racing||+ 9.833|
|8.||Nick Percat||Summit Racing||+ 10.443|
|9.||Jack Le Brocq||TEKNO Autosport||+ 10.871|
|10.||Tim Slade||Freightliner Racing||+ 18.415|
|11.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 18.900|
|12.||Lee Holdsworth||Preston Hire Racing||+ 19.450|
|13.||James Golding||Wilson Security Racing GRM||+ 20.133|
|14.||Simona de Silvestro||Team Harvey Norman||+ 20.735|
|15.||Mark Winterbottom||The Bottle-O Racing Team||+ 21.722|
|16.||Tim Blanchard||Team CoolDrive||+ 26.373|
|17.||Will Davison||Milwaukee Racing||+ 45.106|
|18.||Anton de Pasquale||Erebus Motorsport||+ 55.820|
|19.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||1 lap behind|
|20.||Garth Tander||Wilson Security Racing GRM||1 lap behind|
|21.||Richie Stanaway||Rabble Club Racing||1 lap behind|
|22.||Michael Caruso||Drive Racing||3 laps behind|
|23.||Todd Hazelwood||Bigmate Racing||3 laps behind|
|24.||Andre Heimgartner||Plus Fitness Racing||9 laps behind|
|25.||Scott Pye||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||14 laps behind|
|Did Not Finish||Team / Entry||Reason|
|DNF.||James Courtney||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||Steering|
Image via Keith McInnes Photography