Van Gisbergen triumphs, Cassidy nearly makes history, and two former champs get in trouble
Motorsport is as emotional a sport as any, and sometimes those emotions can spill over. The difference through is that when they spill over in say rugby league, you wind up with a potential fist-fight — players using their bodies as weapons. Motorsport however places athletes behind the wheel of incredibly quick race cars, which can become rather potent weapons when tensions run high. It was a mixed weekend for New Zealand's racing contingent, with a couple of them involved in some rather high-profile on-track confrontation while two of them laid down inspiring performances.
Shane van Gisbergen beats his biggest rival
Photo / Daniel Kalisz, Getty Images
The hot topic in the Supercars Championship paddock is the emerging rivalry between Red Bull Racing Australia's star pupils Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen.
While Whincup is a six-time champion and currently leads the standings, van Gisbergen has shown several times this season that he has the chops to go toe to toe with his teammate. And this was exposed in emphatic style over the weekend at the first of the Supercars races at Sydney Motorsport Park.
After pit strategy dropped Whincup from second to fifth, the former champ pushed through to get back to second and challenge van Gisbergen for the win. What followed was a clinic in touring car brilliance from both drivers; both engaging in incredible combat with minimal contact. One particular move saw Whincup dive inside van Gisbergen at turn two, putting two wheels on the grass as the pair drove side by side.
While Whincup's attacks were masterful, van Gisbergen's defense was exemplary, and he was able to take his fifth race win of the season so far in what was one of the best races of the year so far. Whincup wasn't completely left out however, winning race two on the following day — the 100th win of his career.
For the rest of the Kiwis it was a mixed bag. Scott McLaughlin enjoyed a pair of top-six finishes, while Fabian Coulthard took a 10th place finish on Sunday.
Earl Bamber in the thick of controversy
Photo / Porsche
Former Le Mans champion Earl Bamber was in action with Porsche at the latest round of the IMSA series at Virginia International Raceway. Bamber and co-driver Frederic Makowiecki crossed the line third, but a last lap incident between Bamber and former Formula 1 pilot Giancarlo Fisichella is likely to be investigated.
Bamber dived inside the Ferrari 488 driver prompting a collision on the last lap at turn two. The spinning Fisichella was out of the lead results, and Bamber was left to collect a third-place finish.
Clearly rather miffed with the whole thing, Fisichella tracked down Bamber on the cool-down lap and gave him a piece of his mind by pushing Bamber's car off the circuit with his Ferrari. Bamber later reported that they had had words following the race, where Fisichella “said a lot of things I can't repeat.”
Mitch Evans slumps at Spa-Francorchamps
Photo / Sam Bloxham, GP2 Series Media
It was another long weekend for Mitch Evans, who continues to struggle with the Campos Racing package.
This time it was at Spa-Francorchamps; the GP2 Series supporting the Belgian Grand Prix. Qualifying 19th for race one of the weekend set the tone for the former GP3 Series champion; who failed to get near the top 10 all weekend. He eventually finished 16th in race one and 15th in race two.
Evans is now 11th in the points standings, with his win in Austria feeling like it happened an eternity ago.
Dominic Storey the leading AGT Kiwi
Photo / sourced
The second round of the inaugural Australian GT Endurance Championship took place on Saturday; 101 laps of Sydney Motorsport Park beckoning. But somewhat strangely, the majority of the classes 'usual suspects' weren't in the running for victory. Klark Quinn's usually rock solid McLaren 650S (shared with Kiwi Dan Gaunt) seemed to struggle for most of the weekend, as did the Phillip Island 101 winning 650S of Jonathan Webb and Grant Denyer.
In their absence at the front was the Walkinshaw Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R of John Martin and Duvashen Padayachee and the Aston Martin of Andrew and George Miedecke. The Porsche started from pole but the father-son Aston was what eventually took top honours; the first win for the Miedecke Stone Racing squad in just their second season.
New Zealanders were scattered through the field, but only one of them really shook the tree for a potential podium; Eggleston Motorsport's Dominic Storey [pictured above]. Starting from sixth, Storey progressed as high as third in the opening stint of the race. He and co-driver Peter Hackett appeared to fade through the middle portion of the race, but recovered to take sixth by the flag.
Craig Baird was as explosive on track as always, carving through the field in the opening laps after starting a fair way down the order. But ultimately a lack of pace mid-race and a technical issue on the final lap that saw a wheel part company with his Erebus Motorsport AMG GT3 saw him only able to finish as high as 11th.
Nick Cassidy's remarkable drive at Suzuka
Photo / Toyota Gazoo Racing
Former Toyota Racing Series champion Nick Cassidy started round five of the Japanese Super GT championship, the 45th Suzuka 1000km, from 11th. Probably not what one would call a 'winning' starting position, but that didn't matter. By the end of his opening stint, Cassidy had driven to seventh. Then by the end of his co-driver Daisuke Ito's next stint they were third.
As the race wore on, several cars in their GT500 class fell out of contention — including the Calsonic GT-R that spontaneously combusted.
The race eventually boiled down to a one-on-one fight between Cassidy's au Lexus and the Zent Cerumo Lexus of Hiroaki Ishiura and Yuji Takanawa. Cassidy strangled the lead from Takanawa, only for Takanawa to nip back inside him on a corner that was effected by a localized yellow flag. The move unbelievably was not penalized, with the rationale from officials unclear.
The pair of cars continued to dice for the remainder of the race, swapping the lead several times. But ultimately the Zent combination took the chequered flag first by a mere 1.2 seconds. Lost win withstanding, it was still a stellar drive and result from Cassidy; his first career Super GT podium.
Fellow Jono Lester was also competing, but unfortunately his race was somewhat over before it began after an early tyre failure then a string of penalties bumped his Lamborghini Huracan off the lead lap in the GT300 class. His team ended up finishing 19th.
Scott Dixon: “I don’t know what the hell was going on”
Another weekend, and depending on your view of the above another bout of bad luck for the reigning IndyCar Series champion.
After qualifying poorly, Dixon had enjoyed a smooth run through to a comfortable fifth position at the Firestone 600. But while trying to unlap himself from Ed Carpenter, the pair made contact on the front straight. It sent Dixon into a spin, which then resulted in him smacking the wall at turn one.
With this being Dixon's fourth DNF in a season dotted with incidents, the Kiwi underlined his feelings on the crash by flipping Carpenter the bird with both hands as he circulated past the wounded Target car. Graham Rahal eventually won the race, in the fifth-closest finish in IndyCar history, narrowly beating James Hinchcliffe.
"I was pretty angry with that one," said Dixon.
"I don’t know what [Ed Carpenter] was doing. As I said, he’s a good friend but he was driving out there like he had no spotter. [...] I don’t know what the hell was going on, he just turned left, I had the car down there on the inside going into turn one.
“He had done it to me a couple of laps before going into [turn] three, same deal, so maybe his radio wasn’t working.”