How bizarre: Scott McLaughlin wins weird PI opener, André Heimgartner 3rd
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Kiwis have locked out the first three spots in what proved to be a bizarre opening Supercars race at Phillip Island's WD-40 SuperSprint.
Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard finished first and second; McLaughlin's win extending his incredible form at the Victorian circuit, while Coulthard's result helps consolidate his grip on second in the championship.
Third went to Kelly Racing's André Heimgartner — the Nissan pilot securing the 'best of the rest' tag with his first solo career podium, following a physical battle with his boss, among others.
The Shell duo dominated early; leading the field away off the start before clearing out across the first the first stint before the pit cycle began. And, though there was some mild shuffling during the pitting phase of the race, both McLaughlin and Coulthard had relatively straightforward drives to first and second by the end of the race.
Three different Holdens all had front-wheel issues. While holding out for a long first stint, both James Courtney and Tim Slade had simultaneous, synchronised right-front punctures at turn one. Then, only a few laps later, Jamie Whincup suffered a bungled pit-stop.
Whincup's front-right tyre had not been bolted on firmly, with the team dropping him to the floor without having secured the wheel properly. Immediately the team radioed Whincup to get him to stop the car, and his stationary Commodore subsequently prompted the race's one and only safety car. It's expected that the Red Bull ace and his team will incur some form of points or financial penalty.
Mark Winterbottom, after a wretched race of his own, lost his right-rear wheel late in the race too. And then, with the end of the race in sight, Cameron Waters made wheel-to-wheel contact with Shane van Gisbergen, resulting in a right-rear suspension collapse on the Monster Energy Ford Mustang; capping off a race filled with weird incident.
Following the safety car, McLaughlin and Coulthard pushed on with clear pace to burn — eventually claiming first and second (McLaughlin winning by 1.2 seconds). There had been speculation that the two Shell cars would incur some form of penalty for having their line-locking systems fail mid-pit-stop, but that ended up resulting in a team-based penalty.
Behind the leaders, it was an intriguing race between Heimgartner, David Reynolds, and Chaz Mostert. The former BNT V8s champ started the race in an impressive fourth place, and then earned third place in the queue after fending off a fierce attempted pass from teammate Rick Kelly following his stop.
While Kelly faded with minor errors, Heimgartner pressed on — eventually having to defend from Reynolds (who had passed eight cars, mainly in pit-lane, to be in with a chance) and Mostert. But, Heimgartner eventually simply drove away from the challengers to take a comfortable third. It's his first podium finish since a quality drive in the wet at the Gold Coast in 2017, and his first solo podium finish in Supercars period.
Behind Heimgartner, Reynolds and Mostert completed the top five, with van Gisbergen recovering from a disappointing qualifying performance to race to sixth. Kelly, Scott Pye, Nick Percat, and Will Davison rounded out the top 10, while Richie Stanaway completed the Kiwi contingent in 14th.
Results: WD-40 Phillip Island SuperSprint, race 9
1. Scott McLaughlin
2. Fabian Coulthard
3. André Heimgartner
4. David Reynolds
5. Chaz Mostert
6. Shane van Gisbergen
7. Rick Kelly
8. Scott Pye
9. Nick Percat
10. Will Davison
11. Todd Hazelwood
12. Anton De Pasquale
13. James Golding
14. Richie Stanaway
15. Lee Holdsworth
16. Simona De Silvestro
17. Tim Slade
18. Macauley Jones
19. Garry Jacobson
20. Jack LeBrocq
21. Mark Winterbottom
22. James Courtney
23. Cameron Waters (DNF)
24. Jamie Whincup