Shane van Gisbergen has won Race 2 of the Newcastle 500 this evening after hunting down Chaz Mostert in the final stages.
It was as typical a win for van Gisbergen as anything we’ve seen before, the New Zealander running long as the rest of the field stopped before clawing back a large deficit and managing a pass in the final stages.
If anything, the strategy almost replicates the one used for yesterday’s race, however it was much harder this time around with a spirited Mostert having shown great pace right from the start.
The pass on Mostert may come into focus post-race with the two trading paint as van Gisbergen switched sides behind Mostert, potentially bumping him off line.
There was no doubt that he would have got there eventually, however, having 12 laps fresher tyres and having clawed back 8 seconds over the final 15 minutes.
The duo were a class ahead of the rest, pole-sitter David Reynolds forced to settle for third some 25 seconds off the pace.
James Golding earned a hard fought fourth to back up his solid qualifying effort and show he can be right in the mix with the best. He beat home Broc Feeney to the flag leaving the second Red Bull driver to settle for fifth.
Brodie Kostecki recovered from a disappointing grid position to work from 15th to finish 6th, one spot ahead of Andre Heimgartner.
Another unfamiliar top 10 finisher was that of Jack Le Broq who was eighth, ahead of Tim Slade and Mark Winterbottom who rounded out the top 10.
Matt Payne also had another quick, clean race to finish 14th, the top rookie in the field.
The race did become a timed affair following a Lap 1 red flag. The cause was contact between Declan Fraser and Macauley Jones which sent the former spinning into the pitlane barrier before he’d even crossed the start line.
Extensive barrier repairs were required and the ultimate 20 minute delay resulted in a 6 lap shorter race.
Mostert walks away from the opening round with the championship lead, as he did last year. He’ll have four races to defend that in Melbourne when Supercars returns at the end of the month.
Before the race even began there was drama, Will Davison relegated three spots to 14th on the grid for impeding Will Brown during the 20 minute timed qualifying session. This worked well for two Kiwis with Payne elevated to grid spot 11 and Heimgartner to 12th.
Alternator issues for pole-sitter Reynolds also caused a scramble at Grove Racing with the team forced to complete some last minute repairs.
Whilst they were able to fix the issue and return to the grid, Tickford Racing weren’t so lucky, James Courtney’s car was unable to start following their Top 10 Shootout shunt.
Once the lights did go green it was Mostert who got the better launch to lead the pole-sitter into Turn 1. Waters also pipped Golding to fall into third with Van Gisbergen holding fifth.
Heimgartner was one of the better starts from 12th, aided by an empty grid spot in front following Courtney’s absence.
In contrast to yesterday’s Safety Car free race it didn’t take long for an interruption today as Declan Fraser and Macauley Jones tangled off the start.
The crash came about as Fraser launched well from behind before trying to pass Jones and Cameron Hill by going through the middle. Fraser drifted into Jone on the right, the two cars interlocking and sending Fraser in a spin to the left and hard into the pit wall.
Tickford’s tough day continued due to the damage to Fraser’s car who joined Courtney in the paddock and unable to compete.
Damage to the barriers caused a red flag, a crane required to put them back into place.
Cars returned to the track after a 20 minute delay to fall into file ahead of a Safety Car restart.
Mostert launched well when the lights went green followed by Reynolds, Waters and Golding with van Gisbergen losing slight ground of the lead four with a more conservative approach.
A massive train of cars built up behind with several drivers, including Heimgartner, looking to make gains on those ahead.
Payne was also in the train having dropped to 14th behind Davison.
Up front it had taken Mostert just 4 laps to build a 1.5 second lead over Reynolds as Waters also dropped to fall 2.5 seconds behind in third. Further gaps were emerging in the lead pack with van Gisbergen finding himself 10 seconds off the pace in fifth after Lap 9.
The mid-field traffic jam resulted in several teams making their first of two compulsory stops early, including Red Bull boxing Feeney and Shell V-Power pitting Davison. The latter had damage on the rear of his car and was quickly back in the lane for further repairs making for a tough afternoon ahead.
Payne came in for his stop on Lap 15 to return to the pack behind Feeney.
Mostert was the first of the lead eight to come in for his first stop from the front on Lap 23 to leave the field to respond.
Heimgartner followed 2 laps later with the other leaders remaining out for several more laps.
Lap 29 was when Waters and Salde made their stops with Reynolds following on Lap 31. He stopped for longer but took extra fuel to return to eighth.
Golding and van Gisbergen had remained out in front with the Kiwi managing a pass to take the net race lead on Lap 32. Golding responded by taking to the lane immediately after.
It wasn’t until Lap 38 when van Gisbergan came in, some 15 laps after Mostert.
The running order once he returned to action as the last stopper had Mostert back in fron over Waters, Feeney, Reynolds, van Gisbergen, Kostecki, Golding and Heimgartner respectively.
Reynolds quickly changed this to take third off Feeney at the hairpin on Lap 40 on much fresher rubber.
Waters quickly hunt down the race leader and began to put some intense pressure on him as the two cars ran line-astern for multiple laps.
A rare error from the Tickford driver on Lap 48 dented his chances of success, however, his Mustang clipping the inside wall at Turn 11 and swerving dangerously close to the outside barriers at the corner exit.
A bent steering arm saw Waters retreat to the lane for repairs but the damages were severe enough to return down in 15th with compromised steering.
Waters exit from the battle for the lead put Reynolds in second with van Gisbergen hot on his tail some 12 seconds off the pace.
Lap 52 was where the Kiwi worked past the Australian to take second and begin hunting down Mostert.
Fifteen-lap newer tyres worked in favor for van Gisbergen who was able to half the deficit before Mostert pitted on Lap 58.
The defending champion remained out front to go about building a lead, as he had yesterday, over the pack.
Lap 65 saw Hazlewood in the wall after Randle collected him by attempting a dive up the inside. The impact was at slow speed and resulted in cosmetic scrapes only,
Having not stopped but the majority of the field had became problematic for van Gisbergen around this point, marshals not showing blue flags for lapped traffic during the pit cycle
He did finally come in on Lap 70 for his final stop and needed to take 10 litres of fuel extra than Mostert had. This gave the Australian the race lead back with van Gisbergen having 25 laps to claw back an 8 second deficit.
The red flag interruption early on meant the race was set to become a timed affair. This gave van Gisbergen 13 minutes to claw back what had been reduced to a 5 second gap.
Lapped traffic again became a challenge for the Kiwi but this time the blue flags flew. Once he’d negotiated three cars he was given a clear shot at the lead with 2.5 seconds separating the pair with 8 minutes to go.
Some blistering pace from the Kiwi reduced this to under 1 second as the timer continued to count down leaving the last moments poised as a thriller.
It didn’t take long for #97 to take the lead once he was in touching distance, a fake right and dive left into the hairpin giving him the lead. There was slight contact between the pair with van Gisbergen trading paint with Mostert’s rear bumper as he swapped sides.
Mostert returned the favour at the next turn but it was too little too late for the Walkinshaw Andretti racer who could only watch as the Red Bull disappeared up the road.
Lap 89 was when the chequered flag flew, six laps early with van Gisbergen taking the race win by 4.5 seconds over Mostert and Reynolds finishing third, some 20 seconds back.
Golding was rewarded for his strong form this weekend for fourth ahead of Feeney and Kostecki.
Heimgartner drove a quiet, clean race for seventh ahead of Le Broq, Slade and Winterbottom who rounded out the top 10.
Payne was top rookie once again in an impressive 14th.
Header Image: Supercars