Shane Van Gisbergen has hunted down Will Davison to win Race 19 of the Supercars championship, coming back from 16 seconds down. It was a strategy masterclass from the Red Bull Racing team who utilised their pit stops to maximum efficiency through fuel distribution and tyre strategy.
Cam Waters overtook Andre Heimgartner on the penultimate lap to round out the podium places after a tight final lap battle.
It was a clean race, with no safety car interventions and a battle of strategy being the difference over the 88 laps. The battle of super soft tyres against the hard proved key, as did the fuel intake required over the two stops to make the end of the 250km race.
Davison pipped Van Gisbergen off the start and took an inside line, making the Red Bull vulnerable to an attack from Waters, which he managed to defend.
James Courtney picked up a 15 second time penalty for contact on James Golding from the start, which left Golding returning to the garage for repairs before re-emerging several laps down.
Tim Slade, the highest placed starting car on super soft tyres, made up a quick five places to sit fourth by the end of lap one. The Mustang then went on to pick off Waters and Van Gisbergen by the end of the next lap to have improved seven positions from the start to sit second.
Slade went on to overtake Davison for the lead on lap seven, in a strategy which would see him finishing on a harder compound to the rest of the field.
David Reynolds, who ran the alternative strategy of starting on super softs, also worked his way through the field to sit second by the end of lap 12.
Of the cars on the hard tyres, Davison’s lead evaporated to Van Gisbergen, with the kiwi taking third position on lap 14.
Slade’s lead continued to grow, and was out to six seconds over Reynolds by lap 19, with Van Gisbergen a further five seconds behind to sit 11 seconds off the lead.
De Pasquale was the first of the front-runners to make their first stop, taking a new set of hard tyres and fuel on lap 22, leaving him with a set of super softs remaining to finish the race on later.
The super soft’s finally started to fade around lap 27, and Reynolds took his stop from second to put Van Gisbergen into second, nearly 14 seconds behind Slade.
Slade finally pitted from the lead on lap 29, as did Davison from fourth. This made the running order a kiwi one-two, with Heimgartner sitting second behind Van Gisbergen.
The Red Bull number 97 came in on lap 31 and lost several places due to taking on over 100L of fuel, which meant his final stop to softer tyres would be much faster with less fuel required.
The nature of differing fuel loads and tyre strategies for teams from here meant the true running order wouldn’t be known until after the final stop.
Mostert was the first to pull the trigger on lap 52, taking his remaining fuel and super softs to see him through to the end of the race.
Davison followed suit a few laps later, as did Heimgartner on lap 58.
Slade also took his last set of hards and remaining required fuel with 29 laps remaining, and emerged behind Davison who was on the super softs, putting Davison in the net lead of the cars that had taken their second stops.
Van Gisbergen finally took his stop with 25 laps to go, to emerge behind Davison, Mostert and Slade, meaning a fast finish would be required for a podium result.
Slade was easy pickings for the Red Bull Racing car, leaving 11 seconds the gap to Mostert in second and a further five to Davison in the lead. Heimgartner also picked off Slade not long after to run fourth.
The overtake was completed on Mostert on lap 75, leaving 13 laps for SVG to make up seven seconds on Davison.
Van Gisbergen caught and overtook his man with five laps to go, with the fresher tyres making the difference as he got the move done on the main straight.
Heimgartner followed a similar mission for the remaining podium spot over Mostert, and overcame an 11 second deficit to take third with seven laps to go. Unfortunately Waters was on a charge also, and managed to pick off third from the BJR car on the penultimate lap.
After a miserable weekend at Darwin, it was a crucial victory for Van Gisbergen and further extends his championship lead.