Three out of four for van Gisbergen
New Zealander dominates at Albert Park, as Red Bull sweep the event
Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen has made a statement at Albert Park in Melbourne by winning three out of the four non-championship V8 Supercar races in his Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore — his first wins for his new 2016 team.
The Formula 1 support event, not broadcast in New Zealand, featured a number of alternative rules; including rolling starts for each of the four races. An overall 'round' winner was also declared at the end of the weekend, as each driver earned themselves 'points' on each day. Although none of these points counted for their championship status.
van Gisbergen started race one from fifth on the grid, but had placed himself in second behind teammate Jamie Whincup after only a handful of corners as the leading group of cars jostled for position. After a caution flag compressed the field, he was able to round up Whincup at turn 14 after the pressured Whincup ran wide through turn 13, having locked a wheel while defending.
van Gisbergen's other two wins, taken in race two and four, were both straight-forward affairs, as the New Zealander led from lights to flag.
Whincup was the other driver to claim a win, beating van Gisbergen and an equally pumped Craig Lowndes in race three after all three spent the full 12-lap race battling with each other.
Fabian Coulthard (blue) and Scott Pye (red) were both strong for DJR Team Penske, as the team finds its feet returning to a two-driver format. Photo / DJRTP
As Prodrive Racing's Mark Winterbottom stuggled and teammate Chaz Mostert faded as the weekend progressed, the mantle of leading Ford team was taken up by DJR Team Penske. While Scott Pye was quick all weekend, their star driver was Fabian Coulthard. The new recruit didn't finish outside the top five all weekend, ending the event by finishing second in race four and helping secure a Kiwi 1–2.
“I'm pretty happy to see how our team has progressed as the weekend has gone on. It's been a consistent weekend, and to round the weekend off with a podium for DJR Team Penske is pretty cool,” Coulthard told V8 Supercars.
“Shane and I had a good battle there at the start, and as the race went on we didn’t have the pace to match Shane.
“The car is very different to drive but I'm still figuring out how to drive it. It's all progressing in the right direction and it’s nice to know we're finishing third when there's still more to come.”
“It's pretty trendy to qualify up the front, so it's good we've got good car speed, and it's also nice to know that Roger [Penske] is on the other side of the world watching. [...] He sent both Scott [Pye] and I a message yesterday. He's got a very big vested interest.”
The other three New Zealanders in the line-up had mixed weekends, saved by the fact that they weren't driving for points.
Scott McLaughlin (Volvo) was quick, but only claimed two top 10s before a technical drama spoiled his third race and ensured he would start the fourth race deep in traffic.
Similarly, Chris Pither (Ford) had a building weekend after crashing out at Adelaide, peaking with a best finish of 13th, before succumbing to a poor result in race three. André Heimgartner and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport teammate Nick Percat both struggled to extract pace from their Holdens, neither finishing as high as they would like.
The series now heads to the Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint in two weeks time for round two of the 2016 championship.