Shane van Gisbergen has come from starting in the pitlane to winning the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs, and in doing so claims the New Zealand Motor Cup.
The 2016 Supercars champion had won the first two races of the weekend but was compelled to start the Grand Prix from the pitlane.
An unfortunate mistake had van Gisbergen set off his in-car fire extinguisher in the garage. A hasty attempt to clean the car and reload a new extinguisher cost crucial minutes, and the Red Bull driver was made to start from the pitlane.
Still, van Gisbergen worked himself one-by-one through the 16-car field, getting ahead of erstwhile race leader Daniel Guant on lap 18. He would go on to lead Andre Heimgartner home in a Supercars 1-2 by 2.2s.
Gaunt had controlled most of the race’s opening half. The two-time Grand Prix winner made his push for the lead on the international straight on lap one, easing himself down the inside of polesitter Kaleb Ngatoa at Turn 2.
Brendon Leitch has been the driver to match on race starts, and once again the Dayle ITM racer surged from 12th to 9th on the opening tour.
At the end of lap one, the top-five was Gaunt, Ngatoa, Chris van der Drift, Heimgarter and Matthew Payne.
Soon enough, van der Drift had wrestled himself past Ngatoa and swiftly began eating into Gaunt’s lead.
Searching in vain to steal the race lead, van der Drift made light contact with Gaunt’s right-rear at Turn 2. As the Tasman Motorsport driver exited the Swampy Curves it was evident there was significant damage to his front wing, and he was called into the pitlane for repairs.
The field was then neutralised behind the safety car for the sole time when Peter Vodanovich peeled off the road on the exit of Turn 9.
Among all the early drama, van Gisbergen was up eight positions, running behind Leitch in the battle for seventh. The place would swap hands on lap 9, with van Gisbergen wrestling himself around the outside at the Double B.
Seventh quickly became sixth, which then turned into fifth and fourth as he scythed his way past Damon Leitch and Payne.
His next target was Ngatoa, and despite some stubborn defence by the 19-year-old, van Gisbergen was soon enough in the front.
A daring lunge on Heimgartner at the Porsche Dipper with 12 laps in hand put van Gisbergen within once car of the lead. That positional change came just one lap later when Gaunt allowed van Gisbergen to squeeze down the inside at Turn 8.
Heimagrtner seized the opportunity and demoted Gaunt to the final podium place.
Gaunt looked to have used the best of his set of boots. He was relegated off the rostrum by Payne who claimed his third consecutive podium.
Kaleb Ngatoa was fourth, while van der Drift was able to salvage fifth.
Damon Leitch was an commendable sixth, leading home younger brother Brendon in seventh.
Gaunt slipped back to eighth while Billy Frazer and Greg Murphy rounded out the top-ten.
|Shane van Gisbergen
|Chris van der Drift