Fabian Coulthard has won a thrilling Race 25 of the Supercars Championship at The Bend which saw title rivals Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup both dealt time penalties.
Coulthard was mired behind an ailing Shane Van Gisbergen who was nursing blistering tyres for most of the race, eventually pushing his way past on Lap 21 of 24.
Van Gisbergen would fall back to ninth as he was swamped by several drivers on much fresher tyres.
Jack Le Brocq would finish four-tenths behind Coulthard in second with rookie driver Bryce Fullwood coming up ten spots to round out the podium.
The talk of the race however will be concerning a Lap One incident between Scott McLaughlin and Jamie Whincup. McLaughlin had got the holeshot on pole-sitter Chaz Mostert but had his race come unglued at the penultimate corner when he was drilled off the road by Whincup.
The seven-time series champion had an opportunistic lunge on his title rival for the lead. But Whincup misjudged his move and careened into McLaughlin who fell back to 18th.
Whincup was later sentenced a 15-second penalty for the incident and ultimately finished down in 19th.
Van Gisbergen claimed the race lead and after his sole pitstop looked in control for the win. However, the Kiwi soon began to complain of indecent tyre wear and he was soon inundated by a quintet of Mustangs.
The leading challenger was Le Brocq who had risen to second courtesy of a rapid pitstop which had him emerge ahead of Mostert in provisional second.
Initially, Le Brocq usurped Van Gisbergen for the lead with seven laps remaining but he was forced off the road at the final corner which gave way for Coulthard to steal the position.
But in all the chaos up front, McLaughlin had shrewdly charged up to fifth. However, setting up a move on Lee Holdsworth at Turn 6, the incumbent series champion turned the Tickford Mustang into a 180-degree spin. He too would be dealt a 15-second penalty for his driving infringement.
The Kiwi was upset with the call by the stewards which left him 15th at the chequered flag, labelling it ‘unfair’ as he argued he had positioned himself far enough up the inside of Holdsworth to claim the spot.
It unsettled the race and upfront Van Gisbergen then yielded the position to Coulthard as his pace died and Coulthard’s patience began to pay dividends.
Le Brocq followed suit as Van Gisbergen drop positions hand over fist to fall from the lead to ninth in the space of one lap.
The Tickford Mustang then zeroed his sights in on Coulthard, but the Kiwi had established enough of a margin to cruise home for his first race win of the season and his first in 41 career races.
Mostert had a dire race after an impressive shootout performance. The Walkinshaw Andretti United team opted to bring the pole-sitter in for an early change of tyres but the gambled failed to pay off as his pace left him down in 12th.
Andre Heimgartner benefitted from the dramas to clinch a top-four result as teammate Rick Kelly finished sixth in a strong result for the Kelly Racing outfit. They were split by Cam Waters who picked up his career-best result at the venue.
Despite the contentious penalty, McLaughlin extends his points lead to 151 over Whincup.
Tomorrow will have a pair of 24-lap races to conclude the weekend, the first of which will be at 2.25 pm NZT.
|Jack Le Brocq
|Anton De Pasquale
|Shane van Gisbergen