Bitter-sweet weekend for van Gisbergen
A win and a DNF for van Gisbergen after historic Tasmania SuperSprint
Round two of the 2016 V8 Supercars championship was a weekend where New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen got to experience both the highs and the lows of the sport, after being denied a whirlwind clean-sweep at the Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint.
The Kiwi was able to win the first race of the weekend, leading home six-time series champion and teammates Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes, in a defiant performance — his first win for his new 2016 squad, and Holden's 500th win in Australian touring car racing history.
Race two looked to produce a similar result, after van Gisbergen fought off a valiant drive from reigning series champion Mark Winterbottom. The clash had peaked when the pair rubbed panels while running side-by-side on the front straight in the early stages of the race, the Red Bull driver able to fend off Winterbottom's advances.
But with just four laps remaining, an oil spill triggered by the stricken Ford Falcon of Cameron Waters turned the race on its head. van Gisbergen was the biggest casualty, beaching his Holden Commodore — losing a clear victory, and the lead of the championship, in the process.
“At the end, we had really great pace and pulled away, but I just mucked up at the hairpin where the oil was and I just couldn't stop and got stuck,” he said.
“So, 150 points down the toilet really. We had fast cars all weekend, we were the quickest, it's a real shame that it ended that way."
Other New Zealanders Fabian Coulthard, Scott McLaughlin, Chris Pither, and Andre Heimgartner all endured mixed weekends. Coulthard and McLaughlin both emerged in the top ten of Sunday's race, while Heimgartner and Pither both had weekend's to forget — Pither in particular after his race five ended suddenly after a massive crash, which had followed a clash with Clipsal champion Nick Percat.
With Winterbottom also stumbling on the same fluid that claimed van Gisbergen, the race five win fell into the unlikely lap of van Gisbergen's replacement at Tekno Autosports; Will Davison.
Davison had been fast all weekend, having finished third in race one before claiming the fastest lap of qualifying for Sunday's race only to lose the time due to a penalty for blocking during the session.
Having recently lost the presence of experienced engineer Steve Hallam, questions had risen over whether Tekno would be able to continue its march as a one-car team capable of punching above its weight; a question duly answered by Davison's stunning Sunday result.
“I’m speechless. I was pretty happy to bring home a top four today,” said Davison after the win.
"A big step up this week. This morning was encouraging but that lap was so much fun … I didn’t have the outright speed but I had good tyre life and was coming at the end.”
Davison's results see him rocket to the top of the points standings, ahead of Craig Lowndes, and Jamie Whincup. van Gisbergen's Sunday issues saw him fall from first in the standings to seventh.
“[Tekno have] taken this year seriously, they’re still investing in performance and the T8 cars are always moving forward. We have a slightly different car to [Red Bull's] at the moment but we’ve had some upgrades in this car.
“The way the sport is now if you’ve got a great crew, engineer and constantly investing in developments in the car, of course we can do it. So this weekend proved that.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s been a tough start to the year. [...] It’s always difficult settling into a new car at the current level of this field now. If you don’t have continuity it’s going to take a little bit to settle in."
The series will now move to Phillip Island on April 16–17 for round three of the series.
1. Shane van Gisbergen
2. Jamie Whincup
3. Will Davison
4. Rick Kelly
5. Craig Lowndes
6. Jason Bright
7. Cameron Waters
8. Tim Slade
9. Mark Winterbottom
10. Chaz Mostert
1. Will Davison
2. Craig Lowndes
3. Mark Winterbottom
4. Scott McLaughlin
5. Chaz Mostert
6. Garth Tander
7. James Courtney
8. Fabian Coulthard
9. Lee Holdsworth
10. Jason Bright