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van Gisbergen puts on masterclass to take victory at Townsville

Red Bull Racing Australia's Shane van Gisbergen took victory in the final race of the Townsville 400, putting on a masterclass to defeat Holden Racing Team's James Courtney in a close finish between he and Mark Winterbottom.

 

The midpack jostled for position from the get go. Todd Kelly collided with Tim Slade on the start, the pair locking wheels sending Kelly into the air.

 

Front-row starter Lowndes made a poor start from second on the grid, dropping to sixth by the end of lap one. From pole position it was Mark Winterbottom leading into the first turn. But it was David Reynolds who made the best start. The Erebus Motorsport racer launched down the inside at turn one, moving from fifth to second.

 

Whincup went side-by-side with McLaughlin through turn three and four, the Red Bull Racing drive prevailing over the young Kiwi. Fellow New Zealander van Gisbergen made his way past McLaughlin.

 

By the end of lap one Winterbottom led from Reynolds, Whincup, van Gisbegren, McLaughlin, Lowndes, Garth Tander, Will Davison, Scott Pye, Dale Wood and Chaz Mostert rounding out the top-ten.

 

The race began to settle down and Winterbottom established a lead a little over a second ahead of Reynolds who was falling into the clutches of the two Red Bull Racing Commodores.

 

van Gisbergen suffered a flat spotted tyre after making a substantial lock-up through turn 11. Meanwhile his teammate was suffering a similar fate, just one lap later Whincup locked up at the same turn as he tried to get past Reynolds.

 

Lap 12, and Red Bull Racing were the first to play the strategy card slotting van Gisbergen into the pit lane to remove the flat spotted tyre, rejoining down the field. He immediately set the quickest middle sector of the race on his out-lap.

 

Winterbottom made his way into the pit lane three laps later on lap 15 to become just the second of the front runners to head to the pit lane. Winterbottom came out a little under a second ahead of van Gisbergen, the undercut clearly benefitting the Kiwi when the other front runners came in soon after as he sat second provisionally.

 

Reynolds, McLaughlin and Lowndes followed suit a lap later and came out behind van Gisbergen and Winterbottom.

 

Whincup remained on track on an alternative strategy, despite the leaders having made their pit stops. Winterbottom and van Gisbergen were quick at the head of the field and consistently a second faster than Whincup on older tyres.

 

Lap 24, and Whincup finally made his pit stop from the head of the field. Having stayed out for so long and losing time, he lost positions hand-over-fist, falling to 12th as he returned to the action.

 

Winterbottom led with the pit stops cycled through, van Gisbergen in second followed by Reynolds, McLaughlin, Lowndes, Wood, Courtney, Davison, Tander, and Waters.

 

Supercars rookie Kurt Kostecki brought out the first safety car after he stopped on track. The youngster had been dealing with numbness in his feet, but a broken steering arm sent the debutant into the turn ten wall.

 

The field headed for the pit lane to take another set of tyres and their required fuel dump, and the two protagonists Winterbottom and van Gisbergen remained first and second with Reynolds in third. Whincup benefitted from the safety car as he launched himself up into fourth.

 

The race resumed just a lap after the race met half distance. Winterbottom led the field, though van Gisbergen was right on the rear bumper of the Prodrive racer. The Kiwi continued to hound Winterbottom but couldn’t make his way past on the restart.

 

A lap later on lap 38 and van Gisbergen passed Winterbottom, launching down the inside at the final corner to take the lead of the race. The gap between van Gisbergen and Winterbottom remained constant at a little under a second.

 

Front row starter Lowndes began to suffer and by lap 58 he was down to 18th as his tyres began to fall off the cliff. Lowndes pitted soon after and was nearly a lap down on his return.

 

Whilst van Gisbergen and Winterbottom held the top spots, Reynolds, Whincup and McLaughlin began to battle. Whincup and McLaughlin usurped Reynolds for third, dropping the Erebus Motorsport driver to fifth with ten laps to go.

 

Kiwi Andre Heimgartner’s day came to an end with just nine laps to go, and again the safety car was brought out. van Gisbergen and Winterbottom stayed out as many of those behind them pitted for fresh rubber. The top-eight stayed out, but Courtney in ninth was the first driver on fresh tyres.

 

van Gisbergen led the field line astern into turn one, holding a few car lengths over Winterbottom behind.

Those on the fresher tyres were blitzing the cars on used tyres. Two laps after the restart and Courtney was into fifth. Courtney made his way past McLaughlin into fourth with three to go.

 

At the head of the field van Gisbergen was checking out whilst Whincup and Winterbottom battled for second and third, allowing Courtney to catch up. Courtney passed Whincup as the final lap approached putting him onto the podium.

van Gisbergen was too strong though, taking victory in the final race of the weekend.


A dramatic finish between Courtney and Winterbottom saw the Holden Racing Team driver take second on the line by a four hundredths of a second.

 

Scott McLaughlin was the second best of the Kiwi contingent coming home fifth, fellow New Zealander Fabian Coulthard coming home 15th whilst Pither finished 22nd. 

 

Results:

1. Shane van Gisbergen

2. James Courtney

3. Mark Winterbottom

4. Jamie Whincup

5. Scott McLaughlin

6. Cameron Waters

7. Scott Pye

8. Michael Caruso

9. Jason Bright

10. Craig Lowndes

 

Photo: Red Bull Racing

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