Watch: van Gisbergen wins Kiwi showdown after door-to-door McLaughlin battle
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Kiwis Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin have once again starred in the BP Supercars All Stars Eseries. Van Gisbergen topped two of the evening's three races; the opener at Phillip Island and the feature race at Interlagos. The middle race at Interlagos, meanwhile, was won by Anton De Pasquale.
The evening highlight though was an excellent door-to-door exchange between van Gisbergen and McLaughlin in the final race. The duo fought for the lead late in the race, with van Gisbergen and his better tyres constructing a pass lasting almost five corners.
While Lando Norris wasn't able to compete in the series as a wildcard due to McLaren F1 commitments, there were a selection of other wildcards on track. James Golding was back in the series, and Super2 driver Tyler Everingham was on-track too. But perhaps the most interesting driver was Kiwi Fawzan El-Nabi; an iRacing pro who beat 500 other entrants to qualify for the evening.
Naturally he was quick, which meant it was no surprise to see the BP Ford Mustang driver on pole for the opening 12-lap race at Phillip Island over van Gisbergen, Anton De Pasquale, Chaz Mostert, and McLaughlin. Sadly for El-Nabi he bogged the start, allowing van Gisbergen to vault away. He led Mostert, Lee Holdsworth, an impressive David Reynolds, and De Pasquale who somehow settled in the top five by the end of the lap despite two off-track moments.
El-Nabi was one of the first to stop, having dropped to outside the top 10 as a result of his start. He was followed by McLaughlin at the end of lap three, and Mostert stopped one lap later. The undercut was strong for all the early stoppers, with El-Nabi catching right up to McLaughlin and Mostert getting past van Gisbergen for the corrected lead once the Red Bull racer had stopped — although van Gisbergen was able to get back by quickly at turn four.
In a familiar scene, van Gisbergen ended up having to end off De Pasquale in a tight final lap (the pair having dispatched Mostert). De Pasquale pushed hard with a late outside dive at turn four, but van Gisbergen was able to hold on by six tenths of a second. Mostert completed the podium.
El-Nabi looked on to finish fifth behind McLaughlin, until he made nose-to-tail contact with the defending series champ at turn four while trying to nip up the inside. He wound up serving a drive-through penalty, leaving Holdsworth to finish a credible fourth. Cameron Waters, Will Davison, Jack LeBrocq, Todd Hazelwood, McLaughlin, and Everingham rounded out the top 10. El-Nabi finished 16th.
For the Interlagos opener that followed El-Nabi started second alongside pole-sitter De Pasquale, and ahead of van Gisbergen, Mostert, and McLaughlin. De Pasquale got the best start, crowding a quick-starting van Gisbergen (swapping virtual paint in the process) to hold the lead. With Mostert spinning McLaughlin at turn one (inheriting a drive-through penalty in the process), it left El-Nabi to sit third until he stole second from van Gisbergen at Bico de Pato.
Van Gisbergen stopped straight away, hoping to gain an undercut. And initially he did make a gain, taking away second from El-Nabi. But, the wildcard was able to get back by van Gisbergen to take second by the end of the race as De Pasquale grabbed the win. Waters, Fabian Coulthard, Holdsworth, Scott Pye, Mostert, McLaughlin, and Jake Kostecki completed the 10.
The reverse-grid 20-lap finale was led by James Courtney, Chris Pither, and Jack Smith. Surprsingly there wasn't much chaos at turn one, but that was corrected at turns two and three. The first incident was midpack after Macauley Jones lost control on the inside grass before centre-punching a group of cars. Then, at the front, Courtney and Heimgartner came together sending the former champ into a tank-slapper — spearing into Holdsworth and a raft of others.
A safety car was quickly called; Heimgartner leading Smith, Reynolds, and Rick Kelly. Heimgartner stayed out of the pits, as did teammate Kelly. Almost every other car, however, pitted. When the race restarted, the two Kelly Mustangs led Kostecki, Pither, Everingham, and Smith. McLaughlin was the first of the quick drivers in 11th, with van Gisbergen 19th.
The race restarted on lap four, and with it came a few interesting strategies. Some drivers quickly processed their second pit-stops, meaning avoidance of mid-field chaos. Heimgartner, meanwhile, pressed on at the front well into the race before making his first stop. By the halfway mark, McLaughlin held first over Mostert, van Gisbergen, and Waters. Golding was the first to have finished their stops, and he sat 13th ahead of fellow two-stopper Hazelwood.
With five laps to go the field had purified; McLaughlin leading van Gisbergen by 1.4 seconds (but with the latter on fresher tyres). Mostert was third ahead of Golding, Waters, and De Pasquale. Adding an element of tension was the time-certain finish prompted by the early race safety car.
By lap 16 van Gisbergen was glued to McLaughlin's tail. And, in the Shell driver's draft, he dived around the outside at turn one. The Holden ace got the over-under on McLaughlin through turn two and positioned himself on the Shell Mustang's inside into turn two as they ran side-by-side. McLaughlin held on admirably on the outside, but van Gisbergen was able to snag the lead and, a few laps later, the win.
Mostert took third over Golding, who managed to hold off Waters and De Pasquale in a near three-wide finish for fourth. El-Nabi rounded out an excellent wildcard evening with seventh, ahead of Hazelwood, Will Davison, and Zane Goddard.
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