Shane van Gisbergen has won the first race at The Bend Motorsport Park in a Supercar, converting a front row start to victory with a faultless drive.
On the hunt for a second championship, the Kiwi set himself up for success with a front row start for the first race of the weekend, then making use of good car pace to take the lead and stay there.
His win means it’s been three victories in a row for the second-placed man in the championship who is gnawing away at his fellow countryman Scott McLaughlin’s title lead.
Earlier in the day, van Gisbergen’s teammate Jamie Whincup took the first Supercars pole position at The Bend after topping the afternoon’s qualifying session, just out-gunning van Gisbergen to make it a Red Bull Holden Racing Team one-two on the grid. Michael Caruso was best of the rest, lining up alongside Rick Kelly to make it an all-Nissan second row while championship leader McLaughlin ended the session in fifth.
On the low grip surface, Whincup converted pole to the lead into Turn 1 perfectly, leading the pack to the first corner. A tardy start for McLaughlin meant he dropped a spot to Mark Winterbottom off the line, having to file into the train on the opening lap.
James Courtney was the big winner on the opening lap, gaining ten spots to move himself up to 14th, getting as high as twelfth on Lap 2 before contact with the other mid-pack cars dropped him back slightly, although he regained the spots later in the lap.
The Red Bull pair opened up daylight to the chasing field, putting on a five second gap not even five laps in to the race. Van Gisbergen started to get close to Whincup, eager to get past and capitalise on championship rival McLaughlin’s poor position.
On Lap 5, the 2016 series champion got past his team-mate for the lead as the battle for third between the Nissan pair heated up with Caruso not wanting to give up a spot to Kelly. The squabble allowed Winterbottom and McLaughlin to close up while also allowing the lead pair to streak away up front.
The Safety Car was deployed on Lap 8 after Garth Tander suffered a mechanical failure, parking his car on the apex of the final turn. A double stack in the pits for Red Bull meant van Gisbergen emerged retaining the lead while Whincup dropped a number of spots, coming back on to the track in eighth behind Chaz Mostert who had already stopped.
Racing resumed at the start of Lap 10 with van Gisbergen continuing to lead and putting an early gap on the rest of the pack while Whincup was overtaken by the hard-charging Courtney for eighth. Whincup retook the spot a few laps later, trying to salvage positions after the double stack, getting past Mostert soon for seventh.
McLaughlin started to harass Winterbottom for fourth in the closing laps of the race while Whincup kept moving up, getting past Will Davison for sixth after an overtake at Turn 2. The move meant he could range up on McLaughlin, wanting to do good for his teammate who was on track to take the full 150 points on offer.
Whincup made the pass for fifth on Lap 20 out of 24, pushing on to limit the damage from earlier in the race while McLaughlin tried to take a low risk approach to the race, trying to bring home as many points as possible. Whincup then made up another spot, getting past Winterbottom on the next lap for fourth.
Van Gisbergen came home with a clear lead from Kelly, ending up six seconds down the road from the Nissan driver. Caruso took the final spot on the podium while Whincup fought back from the double stack that hampered him to fourth place with Winterbottom and McLaughlin behind him. Davison, Courtney, Mostert and Craig Lowndes finished in the top ten with a decent margain to the drivers behind.
|2018 Australian Supercars OTR SuperSprint – Race 22 Final Classification (24 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||48:23.233|
|2.||Rick Kelly||Castrol Racing||+ 6.260|
|3.||Michael Caruso||Industrial Athlete Racing||+ 8.912|
|4.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 12.887|
|5.||Mark Winterbottom||The Bottle-O Racing Team||+ 15.823|
|6.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 16.400|
|7.||Will Davison||Milwaukee Racing||+ 16.776|
|8.||James Courtney||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||+ 17.239|
|9.||Chaz Mostert||Supercheap Auto Racing Team||+ 18.419|
|10.||Craig Lowndes||Autobarn Lowndes Racing||+ 19.359|
|11.||Nick Percat||X Convenience / Mobil Racing||+ 20.600|
|12.||Tim Slade||Freightliner Racing||+ 22.778|
|13.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||+ 24.928|
|14.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 27.351|
|15.||Tim Blanchard||Team CoolDrive||+ 28.039|
|16.||Jack Le Brocq||TEKNO Autosport||+ 33.528|
|17.||David Reynolds||Erebus Penrite Racing||+ 33.763|
|18.||Scott Pye||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||+ 34.083|
|19.||Andre Heimgartner||Plus Fitness Racing||+ 34.640|
|20.||Lee Holdsworth||Preston Hire Racing||+ 39.772|
|21.||James Golding||Wilson Security Racing GRM||+ 41.897|
|22.||Richie Stanaway||Rabble Club Racing||+ 43.283|
|23.||Simona de Silvestro||Team Harvey Norman||+ 43.715|
|24.||Anton de Pasquale||Erebus Motorsport||+ 45.363|
|25.||Macauley Jones*||DrillPro Racing||+ 45.578|
|26.||Todd Hazelwood||Bigmate Racing||+ 57.958|
|27.||Kurt Kostecki*||Acroplate Racing||+ 1:07.649|
|28.||Garth Tander||Wilson Security Racing GRM||6 laps behind|
* Denotes wildcard entrant
- Anton De Pasquale was deducted 25 championship points after being found guilty of careless driving for colliding with Jack Le Brocq.
Image via Red Bull Holden Racing Team