Cameron Waters has returned to the Supercars winner’s circle, winning the opening race of the WD-40 Townsville SuperSprint and breaking a two-round victory drought. The result comes after a brief dice with polesitter Anton De Pasquale. The Shell runner led the early stanza, but lost the lead after an opportunistic Waters move following his pit-stop. De Pasquale ended up finishing second, with Chaz Mostert third.
It was a disastrous race for Red Bull Ampol Racing. Both Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen showed plenty of pace, only for both drivers to be knocked down by 15-second penalties. Whincup’s came due to a pit-lane speeding infringement, and van Gisbergen’s came after he made early race contact with Brodie Kostecki. Despite the duo finished fifth and sixth.
The opening lap was chaotic, with incidents at turns two and three. The first was a half spin from Zane Goddard and then a full spin at turn three for Macauley Jones, holding up Andre Heimgartner, Bryce Fullwood, and Mark Winterbottom. There was more contact at the final corner, too, Kostecki pushing Todd Hazelwood off-line.
Kostecki was the mover and shaker of the opening lap. Waters got the initial jump in the battle for first, but by turn two De Pasquale had the lead. Kostecki was the biggest gainer in the madness; coming from 11th to a battle with van Gisbergen for sixth place by turn two thanks to a massive lunge on the inside line.
Van Gisbergen and Kostecki, who are friends off the track, had an exchange that was as brief as it was physical. Van Gisbergen dived inside Kostecki at the final corner a few laps later; getting the move mostly done before allowing almost no room at the final corner for the Erebus driver.
The two made contact, seemingly wheel-to-wheel. The force of the impact sent Kostecki across the grass and into the wall. Things went from bad to worse soon enough for the Boost Mobile driver. On lap seven he was handed a 15-second time penalty for his clash with Hazelwood. Van Gisbergen wasn’t out of the woods for penalties, either. A few minutes later he too would incur a 15-second penalty for the nudge with Kostecki.
Away from the angry fight in the middle of the top 10, De Pasquale was boxing on at the front of the field. By lap 10 he had a 1.2-second gap to Waters. He, too, had almost a second of margin to Jamie Whincup. Chaz Mostert, the pre-penalised van Gisbergen, Will Davison, James Courtney, Nick Percat, Scott Pye, and a rip-roaring Fabian Coulthard.
Van Gisbergen nevertheless pressed on. While the rest of the top 10 was largely static, he continued to perform passes, nabbing Mostert on lap 12. None of the leaders were pitting early by this point. Only those down the back (most notably Tim Slade) were takers. Hazelwood and Will Brown were the first of the runners nearer the front to stop, doing so on lap 16, and then the very next lap Waters and Whincup finally stopped.
Whincup’s stopped appeared to be sluggish. He had made a few seconds on Waters at pit-entry alone, locking his tyres up to avoid hitting the Monster Mustang. This was immediately negated, though, by a time-consuming stop. De Pasquale peeled off from the lead on the next lap, in what would prove to be a critical stop.
De Pasquale’s stop was quick enough for the polesitter to resume on track just in front of Waters. But, come turn two the Tickford star was able to criss-cross the former race leader on his warmer tyres. The lead-changing pass was successful, and Waters immediately built a handy gap.
There were more shenanigans to play out in pit-lane, too. Van Gisbergen observed his 15-second penalty, Courtney had a very slow stop with issues with one of his wheels, and drama would hit two of the top-five runners; Davison and Whincup. Davison’s left-rear wheel wouldn’t disengage, costing time in the stop and meaning no new tyre for that corner.
Whincup, meanwhile, got slapped with a 15-second penalty for speeding in pit-lane. The flurry of activity had a big impact on the look of the top 10. With the stops finally completing on lap 25, Waters surfaced as the leader over the effective order of De Pasquale, Mostert, Slade, Percat, Hazelwood, Courtney, Brown, and Scott Pye.
Whincup was third on the road, but had a 15-second penalty hanging over him. Still, that didn’t stop him from getting past De Pasquale. The No. 17 man was soon under pressure from Mostert. Behind the leaders, van Gisbergen staged a commendable recovery. By lap 34 he was back up to where he had been prior to his 15-second penalty; sixth.
Waters ended up cruising to the win with little threat from behind. In the end he took the win with 2.8 seconds in hand. De Pasquale was able to fend off Mostert in the closing laps, leaving the Walkinshaw Andretti United driver to finish third. Slade, meanwhile, claimed a fabulous fourth having started at the bottom of the top 20 and having taken advantage of a lap-five pit-stop.
One of the only questions in the final laps was whether van Gisbergen would be able to pass Whincup after the seven-time champ’s 15-second penalty. In the end Whincup was able to clot in just in front of his teammate, a mere three tenths ahead. They claimed fifth and sixth, despite the penalties.
Pye, Courtney, Hazelwood, and Brown completed the top 10. After his pit-lane dramas, Davison finished 11th, ahead of Goddard and Percat.