Anton de Pasquale has driven to a commanding victory in this evening’s second race of the Townsville 500, taking a 6-second victory over Brodie Kostecki at the Reid Park Street Circuit.
Andre Heimgartner would feature on the podium in a show of excellent race pace, while Broc Feeny would come home fourth after Shane van Gisbergen pulled up on the line to allow his teammate through to take round honours.
In his 500th Supercars race, van Gisbergen had sat as much as six seconds off the rear of the field following contact from Declan Fraser on lap one after starting dead last in 25th position, having aborted his qualifying lap. However, A late lap 33 stop for 70 litres of fuel would prove the pivotal difference, with a timely Safety Car interference just two laps later bringing in those ahead for a second stop, giving SVG track position.
This was also where de Pasquale would move into contention, utilising his better tyre bank and a strong track position to avoid pit lane congestion and take the net lead of the race. He would manage to pass the non-stopping Bryce Fullwood and Cameron Hill following the restart, pulling a big gap over the field that wouldn’t be overcome following his final stop.
Kostecki would go about hunting down the leader following a late battle with Heimgartner but fell well short of overcoming a 12-second margin and settled for second.
Van Gisbergen had pressured Heimgartner over the final laps, having passed his teammate in the laps prior, but battled with team orders on the radio that instructed him to return the position, despite having pulled over three seconds clear.
Will Brown, who didn’t box under the Safety Car to avoid a double-stack at Erebus, would finish sixth, ahead of Mark Winterbottom, who charged from 20th on the grid to seventh.
Thomas Randle impressed off the start but would fade through the mid-stages before recovering over his final stint to finish eighth as the second-best Mustang.
Bryce Fullwood and Jack Le Brocq rounded out the top 10, comprising eight Camaros and two Mustangs.
New Zealander Matt Payne finished 18th as the first rookie home.
Chaz Mostert suffered a power steering failure early in the race and failed to finish, while Todd Hazelwood joined him in the garage, having also suffered difficulties on Lap 36.
Tim Slade, Cameron Hill and Will Davison also finished off the lead lap after facing mechanical or cosmetic damage during the race.
As it happened
Waters controlled proceedings from the get-go, a good second phase launch putting him clear of Jack Le Brocq as the field exited Turn 1. Thomas Randle also got away well, keeping on the tail of the leaders.
Van Gisbergen’s hard day in his 500th Supercars race continued at the end of Lap 1 when the defending champion was tapped into a spin by Declan Fraser.
Waters, Le Brocq and Randle, continued to run at the front over the opening laps, which saw Chaz Mostert forced out with a power steering issue. Le Brocq made a move for the lead at the end of Lap 5, attempting to out-brake Waters into a sharp right-hander but running wide, which allowed the Mustang back through to retain the lead.
Kostecki, who had sat fourth, struggled for early pace and dropped to seventh as Andre Heimgartner marched towards the front in his BJR Camaro.
Heimgartner sat fourth at the end of Lap 13 and moved into the podium places when de Pasquale, who had passed Randle for third, came in for his first stop.
Kostecki came to life around the same point, sticking to the rear of the Kiwi as he worked to close a small gap to Le Brocq ahead in second.
Waters boxed from the lead on Lap 23, with Le Brocq, exposed to a charging Heimgartner and Kostecki for the race lead.
Both drivers would pass the Matt Stone Racing entry on Lap 24, with Heimgartner building a slight gap over the pack.
Le Brocq’s stop was a talking point, with PremiAir Racing backing Tim Slade out of the garage right into his path as he entered his box. Le Brocq was forced to take evasive action in the lane, squeezing between a trio of mechanics and Slade’s stopped car.
Elsewhere, van Gisbergen began to eat in what had been a six-second gap to the rear of the pack, eventually catching up as the first round of stops was completed.
Brown and Feeney had also made up good ground, the latter stopping early and making up good ground on fresher tyres as the effects of degradation began to show.
Heimgartner stopped from the lead on Lap 29, with Brown following him into the lane from second after Kostecki had boxed in the laps prior.
Once the first round of stops had been completed, de Pasquale took the lead, with strategy now taking centre stage regarding fuel loads and tyre degradation during the race’s mid-phase.
Van Gisbergen finally came in for his first stop on Lap 33 and took on 70 of the required 100 litres of fuel before returning to the track in 22nd.
A Lap 36 Safety Car for debris on the circuit shuffled things up, however, with a number of contenders taking to the lane for further fuel. De Pasquale, Waters, Kostecki and Heimgartner were included in this mix, with Erebus leaving Brown out to take the lead and avoid a double stack. This saw Kostecki take on a large quantity of fuel.
A tidy restart saw de Pasquale immediately move forward, taking the lead on Lap 40 and begin putting a gap over the field on fresh tyres.
Le Brocq had also stopped and would overtake Waters for position on lap 41.
Van Gisbergen moved to sixth, albeit with less fuel, not long after the caution, while Waters, Heimgartner and Kostecki engaged in a tight battle over the laps that followed.
Kostecki would pass Heimgartner for eighth on Lap 48, as Waters began to drop back, while De Pasquale continued to extend his lead to nearly three seconds over Fullwood at the same point.
Van Gisbergen would continue to march forward, passing Le Brocq for fourth on Lap 53 before going about closing down a 4-second gap to Brown in third.
Waters had continued to fade on track and came in for a stop on Lap 55 for fresh tyres and fuel, seemingly out of contention.
De Pasquale continued to build his lead as others made their stops behind, with van Gisbergen making his final box for fuel and tyres on Lap 62, re-emerging eighth.
Heimgartner followed in a lap later, slotting into seventh behind Feeney and van Gisbergen. Kostecki then joined that battle pack when he exited the lane on Lap 64.
De Pasquale’s lead had built to a margin that was sustainable to take his final stop and retain a 12-second lead over Heimgartner, who had moved up to second. However, Feeney would quickly take that position as the duo exchanged places twice on lap 66 as Kostecki quickly closed in behind in the battle for the podium places.
Heimgartner would take second spot back off Feeney on Lap 68, with Kostecki following at the start of Lap 70. Their battle allowed Heimgartner to pull a gap and begin hunting down De Pasquale, whose lead had shrunk to 10.5 seconds with 18 laps to run.
Van Gisbergen also rejoined the lead pack, overcoming a 4-second gap to move within 1.5 seconds of his teammate.
Kostecki joined Heimgartner in his pursuit of the leader as Feeney fell into the grasp of his teammate, the gap to de Pasquale holding steady at 8.8 seconds with 10 laps to run.
The Erebus driver would manage to pass Heimgartner with a superb move at Turn 11 on Lap 78 but was unable to continue to bridge the gap to the race lead.
Van Gisbergen would manage to pass Feeney over the closing laps to move to fourth, however, was instructed to give the position back to ensure Feeny would take round honours.
Much to van Gisbergen’s obvious frustration, he slowed up just short of the line to allow Feeney to finish fourth, behind de Pasquale, Kostecki and Heimgartner, respectively.