Watch: Shane van Gisbergen wins wild, wet, crash-filled Townsville finale
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Shane van Gisbergen has won a crazed rain-soaked second race in Townsville — the first wet race in the history of the circuit. It's the Red Bull pilot's second win of the season, but came at the end of the most unpredictable and incident-packed race of the year.
It was a blockbuster 70-lap shootout, which featured plenty of strategy, passing, and incident. Among those to feel the race's brunt was series leader Scott McLaughlin — eliminated from contention by a lap-one crash. He ended up finishing in 11th position.
"It’s been a tough, tough year for us and we’re getting better, but that one wasn’t me for sure," said van Gisbergen, diverting the attention to his team.
"That [result] was Shippy and the boys there. I was really struggling to keep my head when we didn’t have the grip and they kept it under control and kept me focused to the end. That’s a real team victory.”
A wild and wacky race began with a remarkable wet opening lap. While warring for second (Waters had driven away off the start), David Reynolds and McLaughlin made wheel-to-wheel contact. Both drivers straight-lined turn one and faded to the rear. Both drivers peeled off into pit lane with a steering arm issue for Reynolds and a puncture for Reynolds.
This left Waters leading an incredible Todd Hazelwood. The former Super2 champion had qualified a stellar fourth. But, was up to second after two corners. He didn't stay there too long; losing spots to Coulthard, van Gisbergen, and Mostert in the following laps.
For Mostert, it had been an action-packed first few laps. On lap one he passed nearly 10 cars having started from 16, and by lap eight he had passed van Gisbergen for third place.
Part-way through the pit cycle, the first caution struck to shake things up. Jamie Whincup's crashed and stranded Red Bull Holden Commodore (buckled at both ends after a concrete-wall encounter just prior to the chicanes) threw things into disarray. Coulthard had passed Waters in pit lane, and both resumed at the front with van Gisbergen, Mostert, and Nick Percat behind.
The following stint of racing was chaotic. Positive races for Kiwi Andre Heimgartner and Hazelwood were abruptly severed by a spin (caused by Mark Winterbottom) and a flat tyre respectively. Everyone from about fifth onwards was at each other's throats with contact and damage aplenty. At the front, almost forgotten, Waters managed to wrestle first place back. But it wouldn't be for long.
On lap 29 van Gisbergen was the first driver among the leaders to put on a wet tyre, doing so one lap before the Waters/Coulthard battle. Over the following laps, almost everyone else would do the same.
The big benefactor of it all, however, was de Pasquale. Away from the spot-light he had swapped to wet tyres even earlier than van Gisbergen. And, with all the stops done among the leaders, he led by over 30 seconds from Waters and van Gisbergen. The youngster's only issue was he had to pit again to drink his minimum fuel drop.
The race therefore looked like Waters', but a locked pair of wheels at turn two on lap 35 saw him spear off the road at turn two. This handed first, on at least a corrected basis, to van Gisbergen. But he had Coulthard breathing down his neck. Soon, Mostert joined in as well to make it a three-way scrap. The two Kiwis could theoretically drive to the end without stopping, but Mostert did have to stop.
Behind them a marvelous scrap went on between Waters and Percat for fifth, but that was jettisoned by Percat clumsily out-braking himself at turn three and nudging Waters into a spin. Both piled down the escape road, handing fifth to Rick Kelly (although, like de Pasquale, he too had to pit).
The sun had come out with 20 laps to go, but there was still tonnes of standing water all over the track — ruling out any chance of slick tyres being brought in for the final run to the flag. What de Pasquale needed to aid his chances was a safety car, and the stopped Nissan of Garry Jacobson procured just that with eight laps to go.
It looked like a the set-up for a stunning short, sharp race to the finish with a compressed field was on the cards. But, a scary incident in pit-lane — coupled with an element of 'time certainty' — effectively ensured that the race would finish under safety car.
Entering pit-lane for his last stop, a huge fire would engulf the back end of Percat's Commodore. An eruption took over the team's pit box, and flames also took over in the rear hatch of the car as it stopped at the end of pit lane. Thankfully the surrounding pit-crews and marshalls were quick to react with a flurry of extinguishers.
The added calamity elongated the safety car, and eventually it was confirmed that the race would finish under safety car; van Gisbergen winning over Coulthard (celebrating his 400th start in Supercars), with Waters salvaging third after the raft of last-minute stops for fuel.
The balance of the top 10 was packed with good stories. De Pasquale finished fourth, with Mostert and Kelly rounding out the top six. Garry Rogers Motorsport achieved a great result, with James Golding and stand-in driver Michael Caruso finishing seventh and ninth — split by Lee Holdsworth. Simona De Silvestro finished a credible 10th, after starting from last.
The series now prepares to travel to Queensland Raceway on July 27-28.
Race 18, Watpac Townsville 400 results
1. Shane van Gisbergen
2. Fabian Coulthard
3. Cameron Waters
4. Anton de Pasquale
5. Chaz Mostert
6. Rick Kelly
7. James Golding
8. Lee Holdsworth
9. Michael Caruso
10. Simona de Silvestro
11. Scott McLaughlin
12. Tim Slade
13. James Courtney
14. Jack Le Brocq
15. Andre Heimgartner
16. Scott Pye
17. Todd Hazelwood
18. Macauley Jones
19. Nick Percat
20. David Reynolds
21. Will Davison
DNF. Garry Jacobson
DNF. Mark Winterbottom
DNF. Jamie Whincup