Kiwi 1-2-3: Shane van Gisbergen claims dominant Newcastle win
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Kiwis have locked out the top three spots in the penultimate race of the 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship season — Shane van Gisbergen leading Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard to claim his fourth race win of the season.
The win looked set to help the Red Bull Holden Racing Team close the gap in the Supercars team's championship, with van Gisbergen spending most of the race trailed by teammate Jamie Whincup. But, a mistake from the seven-time champion dropped him down the order with the end of the race in sight. What was going to be a small 77-point margin to DJR Team Penske in the team's championship subsequently ended up blowing out to 143 points.
For van Gisbergen the win would have been surprise news to hear earlier in the day, given that he was only just able to scrape into the top 10 shootout in 10th with a struggling car. Speaking after the race, the 2016 champ credited engineer Grant 'Shippy' McPherson with setting them up for a surprise pole, and then the eventual win.
“Awesome day for us, shame about Jamie making a mistake there that would be been great team points,” said van Gisbergen. “Thanks to the guys, car was awesome, had a cool start, good battle and forced our way through.
“Yeah that’s thanks to 'Shippy', tuning that up in qualifying, that set us up for the win because you simply just can’t pass here. Got caught up in the middle stint and just get struck behind. Great strategy to get us the win, that was all the team effort.”
The majority of the weekend-opening race revolved around differing fuel strategies. Van Gisbergen, having led off the start-line, led the drivers opting for the longer-run strategy. McLaughlin meanwhile was the leading driver of those who had elected to take on a short initial run and early first pit stop.
Behind them, Newcastle brought a requisite level of drama and incident. The opening lap was largely clean, but shortly after a crash took Jack Le Brocq out of proceedings — the defending rookie of the year spun into the wall with enough speed to pop the roof of his Holden Commodore out, following contact from James Golding. Golding was later tipped into a spin of his own following contact with Macauley Jones. But despite the creased bumpers and lost wing-mirrors, the opening phase of the race was safety-car free.
Van Gisbergen peeled off to make his final stop on lap 65, resuming in first place with over four seconds to teammate Jamie Whincup, with McLaughlin some three seconds further back. The championship winner elect had Chaz Mostert in front of him, but the Tickford Racing ace had another pit-stop to make. Once Mostert stopped the top 10 became clear; van Gisbergen, Whincup, and McLaughlin leading Coulthard, David Reynolds, Cameron Waters, James Courtney, Tim Slade, Mark Winterbottom, and Scott Pye in 10th.
That changed on lap 75, when Whincup made an error at turn one resulting in him shooting off down the escape road. The subsequent flick-spin and recovery dropped him from second to seventh behind Courtney. It was a mistake that reshaped the podium order and spoiled the Red Bull Holden Racing Team's hopes of closing the gap in the Supercars teams championship.
There were no such dramas for van Gisbergen, who simply set sail at the front of the field to claim the victory by over 12 seconds from the quiet performances of McLaughlin and Coulthard. Reynolds finished fourth ahead of Waters, ahead of a lightning quick Pye in sixth.
Pye was the most explosive driver in the final laps. Having started from the back of the order after being hospitalised earlier in the week with illness, he rocketed through the base of the top 10 in the closing phase of the race with physical passes on Slade, Whincup, and then ultimately his teammate Courtney. In the end, he made 18 spots during the course of the race. Whincup, Slade, and Winterbottom completed the top 10.
“It’s tough around here man, it’s quite hard work,” said McLaughlin after the race. “I’ve got to do a few chin ups over the off season lay off the pies. Great job for everyone at Shell V-Power Racing, two and three. Obviously Jamie made a mistake there and gifted us that double podium, I’m sure they’ll come back strong tomorrow.
“Great team result. It’s great to have your team-mate up there at any one. Push on; last day of school tomorrow.”
Richie Stanaway and Andre Heimgartner rounded out the Kiwi contingent with mixed fortunes. Earlier issues for Heimgartner in qualifying appeared to linger with a lack of pace resulting in a 21st-place finish. Stanaway meanwhile had a quiet, solid run to climb to 16th place.
Coates Hire Newcastle 500 results, race 31
1. Shane van Gisbergen
2. Scott McLaughlin
3. Fabian Coulthard
4. David Reynolds
5. James Courtney
6. Scott Pye
7. James Courtney
8. Jamie Whincup
9. Tim Slade
10. Mark Winterbottom
11. Chaz Mostert
12. Lee Holdsworth
13. Rick Kelly
14. Nick Percat
15. Will Davison
16. Richie Stanaway
17. Macauley Jones
18. Todd Hazelwood
19. Simona de Silvestro
20. Garry Jacobson
21. Andre Heimgartner
22. James Golding
23. Anton de Pasquale
DNF. Jack LeBrocq