Shane van Gisbergen has claimed back-to-back victories to close out the Supercars Championship double-header on the streets of Townsville, charging from twelfth on the grid to win an entertaining final race.
Fresh from ending his season-long winless streak earlier in the day, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver had a hard task to repeat the feat from twelfth on the grid. As was the case in Race 23, he made a strong getaway off the line and gained several positions on the opening lap which included a crucial pass on championship leader Scott McLaughlin to snatch seventh place.
McLaughlin, who started from an equally poor tenth place, looked to get some clear air by making his compulsory pit stop early on in the hope of undercutting his rivals. His strategy looked to be a potential winner and once the frontrunners had cycled through their pit stops he held the race lead.
Conversely, van Gisbergen opted for a long opening stint, although he gave himself a fright with an unavoidable tangle with Cam Waters which sent the Tickford Racing Ford driver into a spin at the exit of the penultimate corner. Van Gisbergen would not pit until Lap 24, putting him down the order but with much fresher tyres than his rivals for the final laps.
McLaughlin would have the face the balance of the race on older tyres than those giving chase, with the pack led by polesitter Todd Hazelwood who had maturely held the lead until his first pit stop in which he opted to change all four tyres.
A late Safety Car interruption – triggered by Anton de Pasquale crashing his Erebus Holden when its steering failed – proved to be the plot twist of the race.
The break gave McLaughlin’s worn tyres something of a break, allowing him to survive a brief challenge from Hazelwood at the restart.
Hazelwood appeared to be struggling even more, dropping positions to the Red Bull Holdens of Whincup and van Gisbergen over the following laps. With van Gisbergen the quicker of the pairing, team tactics saw the teammates switch positions with four laps to go so van Gisbergen could attack McLaughlin.
Within ten corners van Gisbergen was on the back of McLaughlin and had better drive on the approach to Turn 12, diving up the inside of his countryman. He cheekily forced McLaughlin wide enough to allow Whincup through into second place, giving the seven-time series champion the opportunity to take a few vital points off the series leader in the process.
The Red Bull team orders did not extend to van Gisbergen being forced to surrender a well-earned victory, with Whincup crossing the finish line in his wake to give the outfit its first 1-2 finish since last year’s Gold Coast 600.
McLaughlin, frustrated by the tactics of his arch-rivals, narrowly held on to third place ahead of Chaz Mostert’s WAU Holden, but could take some solace in a net 20-point increase to his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings over Whincup.
The pair is now split by 143 points with a maximum of 900 points available over the newly added double-header SuperSprint rounds at The Bend Motorsport Park (six races worth a maximum of 100 points each) and the season-ending Bathurst 1000 (300 points).
Scott Pye was the hardest charge of the race, climbing from 17th on the grid to claim a superb fifth and no doubt continuing to wonder what he could achieve if he could string a proper qualifying lap together. Pole-sitter Hazelwood finished sixth ahead of teammate Nick Percat, with Fabian Coulthard, James Courtney and Lee Holdsworth completing the top ten.
|2020 Australian Supercars Championship Townsville SuperSprint II – Race 24 Final Classification (39 laps)|
|1.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||53:51.392|
|2.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 0.994|
|3.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 3.032|
|4.||Chaz Mostert||Mobil 1 TM Appliances||+ 3.454|
|5.||Scott Pye||DEWALT Racing||+ 6.837|
|6.||Todd Hazelwood||Team Black Duck||+ 7.660|
|7.||Nick Percat||R&J Batteries||+ 8.100|
|8.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 9.451|
|9.||James Courtney||Boost Mobile Racing||+ 10.015|
|10.||Lee Holdsworth||Truck Assist Racing||+ 12.073|
|11.||David Reynolds||Penrite Racing||+ 12.078|
|12.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||+ 13.085|
|13.||Mark Winterbottom||IRWIN Racing||+ 14.138|
|14.||Jack Le Brocq||Supercheap Auto Racing||+ 14.712|
|15.||Alex Davison||Local Legends Racing||+ 15.074|
|16.||Rick Kelly||Castrol Racing||+ 15.616|
|17.||Andre Heimgartner||NED Whisky Racing||+ 16.084|
|18.||Bryce Fullwood||Mobil 1 TM Middy’s Racing||+ 17.151|
|19.||Macauley Jones||Team CoolDrive||+ 18.346|
|20.||Garry Jacobson||Yellow Cover Racing||+ 19.361|
|21.||Jack Smith||SCT Motor Sports||+ 19.766|
|22.||Jake Kostecki||UNIT Racing||+ 20.366|
|DNF.||Anton de Pasquale||Penrite Racing||Steering|
|DNF.||Chris Pither||Team SYDNEY||Accident|
Image via Motorsport.com
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