The battle for the 2018 Supercars Championship title will go down to the wire after Shane van Gisbergen claimed victory from Scott McLaughlin on the last lap of Saturday’s opening race of the Newcastle 500 after McLaughlin’s DJR Team Penske Ford started to run out of fuel.
The pair is now separated by just two points in the Drivers’ Championship standings heading into Sunday’s final race of the season, however the result of today’s race remains under a cloud while van Gisbergen’s Red Bull Holden Racing team is investigated for an alleged pit lane violation.
Van Gisbergen had earlier claimed pole position in an exciting qualifying session, edging out teammate Jamie Whincup by just one-hundredth of a second to secure an important front-row lockout for the team. The DJR Team Penske Fords of McLaughlin and teammate Fabian Coulthard were right behind after sweeping the second row of the grid.
Yet is was Whincup who made the best start as the starting lights went out, scorching into the lead ahead of van Gisbergen, Coulthard and McLaughlin on the opening lap.
The two driver pairings would swap positions after just a handful of laps, with van Gisbergen now released into the lead while Whincup was left to fend off third-placed McLaughlin.
Whincup and Coulthard both made earliy pit stops, but the latter managed to leapfrog the seven-time series champion and threatened to play something of a spoiling role in how the race would unfold.
The predictions were not wrong. Whincup dived down the inside of Coulthard at the hairpin and bumped the New Zealander wide as the pair exited the left-hander. A seemingly unimpressed Coulthard retaliated at the following right-hander, holding the inside line and tipping Whincup into the tyre wall at the exit of the final turn.
Whincup was able to reverse his car out of the tyre wall and continue, with the race stewards opting not to take any action against either driver. Whincup eventually finished fourth, however the race would end disastrously for his aggressor.
Coulthard later made a mistake and hit the wall hard at the exit of Turn 1. His car was collected by an unsighted Nick Percat, with the accident violent enough to rip the right-hand panels off his BJR Holden. Percat’s teammate Tim Blanchard joined the fray, haplessly T-boning Coulthard’s car some twenty seconds later despite the double-waved yellow flags warning him of the danger ahead.
The Safety Car was called, triggering a mad dash to the pits that saw series veteran Craig Lowndes – contesting his last Supercars event as a full-time driver – damage his Holden’s steering trying to pass Scott Pye’s WAU Holden in the congested pit lane.
Up front, a shorter fuel fill by McLaughlin’s pit crew saw him able to emerge ahead of van Gisbergen to assume an effective lead of the race. Van Gisbergen made another tour through the pits to take on enough fuel to see him through to the chequered flag, while McLaughlin remained out.
The pronouncements that McLaughlin had more than enough fuel on board to make it home proved incorrect. Despite holding a two-second lead to van Gisbergen on the final lap, he slowed in the final corners as his fuel tank ran dry to allow a disbelieving van Gisbergen through to victory.
Erebus Motorsport’s David Reynolds finished third ahead of Whincup, with Pye fifth despite his earlier hit in the pit lane from Lowndes.
Mark Winterbottom enjoyed his final Supercars outing with Tickford Racing with a strong drive to sixth ahead of the second WAU Holden of James Courtney. Nissan teammates Andre Heimgartner, Rick Kelly and Simona de Silvestro – who claimed the first top-ten finish of her Supercars cereer – completed the top ten.
The last race of 2018 starts at 15:40 local time (GMT +11)
|2018 Australian Supercars Newcastle 500 – Race 30 Final Classification (95 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||2:00:22.324|
|2.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 3.770|
|3.||David Reynolds||Erebus Penrite Racing||+ 10.776|
|4.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 20.258|
|5.||Scott Pye||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||+ 22.476|
|6.||Mark Winterbottom||The Bottle-O Racing Team||+ 40.477|
|7.||James Courtney||Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing||+ 41.752|
|8.||Andre Heimgartner||Plus Fitness Racing||+ 49.927|
|9.||Rick Kelly||Castrol Racing||+ 51.274|
|10.||Simona de Silvestro||Team Harvey Norman||+ 52.106|
|11.||Anton de Pasquale||Erebus Penrite Racing||+ 54.163|
|12.||Lee Holdsworth||Preston Hire Racing||+ 56.542|
|13.||Todd Hazelwood||Bigmate Racing||+ 58.896|
|14.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||+ 1:03.228|
|15.||Michael Caruso||Drive Racing||+ 1:07.510|
|16.||Will Davison||Milwaukee Racing||1 lap behind|
|17.||Richie Stanaway||Rabble Club Racing||1 lap behind|
|18.||Tim Slade||Freightliner Racing||1 lap behind|
|19.||Jack Le Brocq||TEKNO Autosport||2 laps behind|
|20.||James Golding||Wilson Security Racing GRM||4 laps behind|
|21.||Chaz Mostert||Supercheap Auto Racing Team||5 laps behind|
|22.||Garth Tander||Wilson Security Racing GRM||5 laps behind|
|23.||Craig Lowndes||Autobarn Lowndes Racing||9 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Reason|
|DNF.||Nick Percat||Timken Racing||Collision|
|DNF.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Accident|
|DNF.||Tim Blanchard||Team CoolDrive||Collision|
- To be advised
Image via Red Bull Holden Racing Team