Van Gisbergen closes on V8 title after Saturday win
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Shane Van Gisbergen moved to within touching distance of a maiden Supercars crown after sharing the spoils with team-mate and title rival Jamie Whincup at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint today.
The Kiwi answered title rival Jamie Whincup's earlier win to grab victory in the second Saturday race to keep his 148-point championship lead with just 450 points still up for grabs in the series.
The Red Bull Racing duo were untouchable at Pukekohe Park, locking out the front row of the grid and the top two positions on the podium all Saturday, showing the dominance that has earned them yet another teams championship.
While van Gisbergen started on pole, Whincup made a good start to the second race and the pair of Red Bull cars went wheel-to-wheel for much of the first lap in superb driving as neither driver gave an inch but maintained a healthy respect for each other.
"It was pretty distracting," said Van Gisbergen who eased away for the win. "I had some dude down the back straight counting down the laps and I was trying not to get flustered.
"It's always a nice feeling to win at home.
"Good points and two good races for myself and also the team with the 1-2s so hopefully the same tomorrow."
The opening fight between the team-mates was intense and everyone at the track seemed to be holding their breaths as the two championship contenders raced side by side around the fastest three corners of the circuit.
Team tactics won't come into play as both drivers have the green light to fight out for the ultimate prize.
"We just have rules of engagement," Van Gisbergen explained. "We know what is expected of us - not to swap paint, race hard and race fair - that's what we are allowed to do. We just can't take it too far and hit each other. We showed today we can do that."
With rain forecast for tomorrow, a treacherous day's racing can be expected. Van Gisbergen might be regarded as the best driver in the field in wet conditions, but he doesn't need drama or variables to come into play when within grasping distance of the title.
"It certainly won't be easy. We all got a taste of the wet [Friday] morning and there were a lot of cars going off and a lot of dirt on the track. It is not very easy in the wet, this track. Hopefully it is dry but, from what I hear, it is not going to be.
"I don't enjoy racing in the rain so it would be nice if it were dry. From a championship point of view it would be great it if was dry."
Whincup took a step forward with his win in the earlier race but had to watch his deficit blow back out to where it started this weekend later in the day. He says he will keep pushing but admits qualifying well and getting in front at the start of the race is paramount.
"At no point [will we concede the title]. We will go right through to the last lap at Homebush on the Sunday."
Ford's Chaz Mostert finished a lonely third ahead of New Zealand's Fabian Coulthard as the field essentially went most of the race in order with limited attempts at passing.
Fellow Kiwi Scott McLaughlin was sixth in his Volvo to further close the gap to third-placed Craig Lowndes in the championship fight. The veteran racer finished a lowly 15th, meaning McLaughlin is just 22 points adrift.
Tomorrow's action sees a repeat of today's format with two 10-minute qualifying sessions and two 35-lap races in the afternoon.
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