Fabian Coulthard broke through to claim his first victory of the 2020 Supercars Championship season in the opening race of the double-header at The Bend Motorsport Park.
The race was tense throughout before climaxing to a thrilling finish, triggered by a controversial contact between championship protagonists Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup on the opening lap for which the latter was handed a pit lane time penalty.
McLaughlin made a superb getaway from the front row, jumping pole-sitter Chaz Mostert off the line while Whincup slipped past the WAU Holden driver into second place.
Whincup looked to capitalise on his early momentum and tried a move on the DJR Team Penske Ford on the approach to Turn 17. McLaughlin saw him coming and tried to close the door, with Whincup locking his rear brakes and sliding into the side of the New Zealander.
Both drivers slid off onto the grass; Whincup rejoined in tenth place and McLaughlin tumbled all the way down to 19th. Whincup was almost immediately hit with a 15-second time penalty to be served on top of his compulsory pit stop, which dented the Red Bull Holden Racing driver’s prospects of closing the points’ deficit to McLaughlin.
Their contact promoted Whincup’s teammate Shane van Gisbergen into the lead of the race, which he held before and after the field cycled through for their compulsory pit stops.
Inspections of many drivers’ first-stint tyres showed a worrying trend: extremely high rates of graining and blistering on the inside tyre walls. This was the first time that Dunlop’s soft rubber was in use at a circuit that has historically had negligible tyre wear, but a combination of ultra-aggressive camber set-ups and weather-affected practice sessions left many teams gambling on how to configure their cars.
Van Gisbergen was quickly beginning to struggle on his second stint, allowing the likes of Jack Le Brocq (Tickford Racing Ford) and Coulthard to quickly close up.
Le Brocq looked the quickest of the trio but his comparative inexperience was exposed with successive attempts at passing van Gisbergen seeing him being pushed wide on each occasion. The second failed attempt saw Coulthard nip through into second place.
Initially unable to slipstream past van Gisbergen along the start/finish straight, Coulthard got a much better exit from the final corner to start the penultimate lap and got past his compatriot to claim the lead.
It was a fine top-shelf performance from Coulthard, who has regularly come under criticism for his repeated poor showings compared to teammate McLaughlin in recent seasons.
Le Brocq overtook van Gisbergen for second place, with the latter’s tyres now bereft of any grip. He was overtaken in rapid succession by a succession of drivers, with the chief beneficiary appearing to be McLaughlin who had recovered all the way to third place.
McLaughlin’s tough day would go unrewarded, however, as on the final lap he too was hit with a 15-second time penalty for tipping Lee Holdsworth’s Tickford Ford into a spin a few laps prior. That dumped him down the order to 15th place and promoted series rookie Bryce Fullwood (WAU Holden) to his first podium finish.
Andre Heimgartner (Kelly Racing Ford), Cameron Waters (Tickford Racing Ford), Rick Kelly (Kelly Racing), Scott Pye (Team 18 Holden) and Anton de Pasquale (Erebus Holden) all overtook a fading van Gisbergen on the final two laps, with the former series champion dumped down to ninth by the chequered flag.
|2020 Australian Supercars Championship The Bend SuperSprint I – Race 25 Final Classification (24 laps)|
|1.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power Racing Team||45:32.983|
|2.||Jack Le Brocq||Supercheap Auto Racing||+ 0.469|
|3.||Bryce Fullwood||Mobil 1 TM Middy’s Racing||+ 4.286|
|4.||Andre Heimgartner||NED Whisky Racing||+ 4.660|
|5.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||+ 5.163|
|6.||Rick Kelly||Castrol Racing||+ 5.829|
|7.||Scott Pye||DEWALT Racing||+ 6.184|
|8.||Anton de Pasquale||Penrite Racing||+ 7.475|
|9.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 10.662|
|10.||Nick Percat||R&J Batteries||+ 12.882|
|11.||Chaz Mostert||Mobil 1 TM Appliances||+ 13.188|
|12.||Lee Holdsworth||Truck Assist Racing||+ 13.675|
|13.||David Reynolds||Penrite Racing||+ 16.058|
|14.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power Racing Team||+ 17.179|
|15.||James Courtney||Boost Mobile Racing||+ 17.250|
|16.||Zane Goddard||UNIT Racing||+ 20.095|
|17.||Mark Winterbottom||IRWIN Racing||+ 21.247|
|18.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 21.469|
|19.||Garry Jacobson||Yellow Cover Racing||+ 22.957|
|20.||Macauley Jones||Team CoolDrive||+ 23.481|
|21.||Chris Pither||Team SYDNEY||+ 33.614|
|22.||Alex Davison||Local Legends Racing||+ 35.938|
|23.||Jack Smith||SCT Motor Sports||+ 49.776|
|24.||Todd Hazelwood||TRG Transport||+ 1:29.582|
- Scott McLaughlin was issued a 15-second time penalty for careless driving (contact with Lee Holdsworth)
- James Courtney was issued a 5-second time penalty for careless driving (contact with Chaz Mostert).
- Alex Davison was issued a 15-second time penalty for careless driving (contact with Macauley Jones).
Image via Motorsport.com
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