NEWS

Whincup wins at Townsville as van Gisbergen seals RBR 1-2

Six-time Supercars Championship winner Jamie Whincup has won the first race of the Castrol Edge Townsville 400 with ease, over Kiwi teammate Shane van Gisbergen. Whincup controlled the majority of the race, but a late-race penalty threatened to tip the win out of the former champ's hands. 

 

van Gisbergen took second, earning the place after a lengthy battle with a fierce Chaz Mostert. His finish sees him climb to second in the championship standings; 83 points behind Whincup, and just one point ahead of reigning champ Mark Winterbottom.

 

The start was won by pole-sitter Whincup. The Holden Racing Team's James Courtney looked primed to follow Whincup into second, but van Gisbergen persevered around the outside of the 2010 series champion to take second back by turn three.

 

While the race had been relatively clean through the first laps, that was shaken after a crash involving Tim Slade, Rick Kelly, and Nick Percat at the end of lap two — a locked-up Kelly clattering into the side of Slade's Commodore. The spun and stranded pair were then collected by the innocent Percat. All three eventually raced on, though Kelly later incurred a pit-lane penalty.

 

At the front, Whincup had built a confident margin of two seconds by lap four. van Gisbergen and Courtney diced for second, while Will Davison was the cork in the bottle in the complex battle for fourth between he, Chaz Mostert, Mark Winterbottom, Fabian Coulthard, and Michael Caruso. Mostert relinquished himself from Davison's wall soon enough on lap five.

 

Whincup's confidence took something of a hit after he locked a tyre and ran wide while trying to round up a lapped car of Slade. It knocked half a second out of his lead. The margin would only further shrink as Whincup struggled to get by the BJR driver. Having bridged the gap to Whincup, van Gisbergen became the first of the leadering pair to pit — doing so on lap 15 in search of an undercut on his teammate.

 

Sensing the danger of an undercut, Whincup's reactionary pit came the following lap and seeing him resume in front of the Kiwi by a slim margin, Courtney in hot pursuit. By lap 25, the trio were back in first, second, and third, as the order purified. Mostert, Winterbottom, Davison, Garth Tander, Craig Lowndes, Cameron Waters, and James Moffat were the balance of the top 10.

 

Despite the fact that they had resumed racing after the first pit cycle so close together, it wouldn't be the case for long. Carrying sublime pace, he promptly gapped van Gisbergen — taking only 15 laps to stretch out a 10-second gap over his fellow Red Bull pilot. 

 

Both Whincup and Courtney filed in to make their final stops on lap 41, with Whincup predictably maintaining a large margin over the HRT driver. van Gisbergen pitted the next lap, with his crew also fitting in a  ride-height change. van Gisbergen rejoined the fray behind Whincup, but ahead of Courtney. Interestingly enough, Mostert also jumped Courtney, with some remarking that his Supercheap Auto Falcon would have superior tyre degredation compared to the Triple Eight Holdens of Whincup and van Gisbergen.

 

van Gisbergen was soon under fire from the envigorated Mostert, with the 2014 Bathurst champ latching onto the back of car #97 with 25 laps to go. The pair decided to step up their combat at the end of lap 46, after Mostert successfully dived under van Gisbergen, only for the Kiwi to criss-cross him into the last corner. They drove side by side down the front straight, with Mostert reigning supreme in the end to take second. 

 

It looked like that was the end of the matter, but van Gisbergen soon bounced back on Mostert on lap 50, roughing up the driver through turn two and three, then through the back section of the circuit. The length of their dice had inexplicably drawn in Courtney and the quick-closing Winterbottom, who themselves were in a fight of their own. 

 

Winterbottom was the first of the four to make a move, bombing an agressive move inside Courtney through turn 10, after getting a better run out of the previous corner. van Gisbergen was unsurprisingly the next to make a pass, ducking under Mostert at turn one on lap 55 much like he had five laps ago. However this time, he was able to protect himself from any Mostert counter attack.

 

All the while, Winterbottom grew bigger and bigger in their rear-view mirrors. He was the quickest car on track, and soon he replaced Mostert as van Gisbergen's main challenger for second after passing his Prodrive teammate with 10 laps to go.

 

Things appeared to stagnate, with Whincup leading comfortably, and van Gisbergen too looking comfortable over Winterbottom. But, a damaged and stranded Nick Percat Commodore with five laps to go prompted the first safety car of the race — cancelling out all margins. 

 

The race restarted with just two laps to go, Whincup with two lapped cars between him and van Gisbergen — one car between van Gisbergen and Winterbottom. But, the agressive New Zealander had dispatched the two lapped cars by turn two. 

 

But, it was ultimately not enough for him to threaten Whincup for the win — the championship leader winning the race by more than two seconds. Behind him, van Gisbergen, Winterbottom, and Mostert rounded out the top four, with Will Davison stealing fifth at the finish line from Courtney. Completing the top eight was Fabian Coulthard; the second Kiwi home. 

 

The remainder of the New Zealand contingent, Andre Heimgartner, Chris Pither, and Scott McLaughlin, ended the race in 15th, 20th, and 24th respectively. McLaughlin's race was frought with technical issues in his Volvo S60, leading him to fall even further behind in the championship race.

 

Photo: Holden Motorsport

 

Results

 

1. Jamie Whincup

2. Shane van Gisbergen

3. Mark Winterbottom

4. Chaz Mostert

5. Will Davison

6. James Courtney

7. Garth Tander

8. Fabian Coulthard

9. Michael Caruso

10. Todd Kelly

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