Shane van Gisbergen threw down the gauntlet ahead of this weekend’s New Zealand Grand Prix, clinching victory in the opening Castrol Toyota Racing Series race at Hampton Downs.
An enthralling race-long tussle between van Gisbergen and polesitter Chris van der Drift dictated the result of today’s 20-lap race.
Holding the fort for the opening six tours, van der Drift saw his lead slip away when van Gisbergen made a daring move into Turn 9.
Van Gisbergen then cantered to victory unrivalled, although there was a late weather scare as a shower of rain began to fall around Turns 2 and 3.
“The pace was good and the race with Chris was really cool,” van Gisbergen said.
“I’ve got to sort my starts out though. But I enjoyed that. Chris doesn’t make too many mistakes and I took the only chance I could.
“We have just been tweaking away, little changes to the car and it’s pretty close now so a couple of things and we’ll get there.”
Initially, it was van der Drift who got the jump on his front row rival. However, the best start of the field came from Brendon Leitch who stormed from fifth to third on the run into Turn 1.
Kaleb Ngatoa lurked behind in fourth, while Matthew Payne dropped a couple of positions off the line. But the 18-year-old was quickly back in his stride, and when Ngoata bowled a wide a Turn 1, Payne pounced and stole P4.
The front two wasted little time before breaking away from the challenging pack. By the end of Lap Three, van Gisbergen had opened up a 3.7s lead over Leitch.
That breathing room allowed the defending Bathurst 1000 victor to zero-in on van der Drift. The swap of the lead would come on Lap 6 with van Gisbergen scything his way down the inside at the Porsche Dipper.
Behind, Payne had slimmed Leitch’s advantage to under half-a-second, and their scuffle allowed Ngatoa to join the fight for third.
Some tough defence by Leitch was ultimately not enough to restrain Payne, with the youngster capitalising on a mistake at Turn 7 to snatch the final podium position.
Ngatoa briefly made it two past Leitch but was demoted back to fifth moments later, a position he would hold until the line.
Andre Heimgartner worked himself up from ninth to sixth at the end of the race, with Daniel Gaunt, and Tom Alexander in tow.
Series rookies’ Peter Vodanovich and Billy Frazer rounded out the top-ten.
Van Gisbergen will now start the first of tomorrow’s two races from pole position, with that race scheduled to begin at 11.40 am.
|Shane van Gisbergen
|Chris van der Drift