Shane van Gisbergen appears to have got his mojo back, winning the final race of the Robson Civil Projects Townsville SuperSprint ahead of Jamie Whincup, after a late safety car shuffled the order in the dying laps.
Van Gisbergen was one of a few drivers that approached the final run to the flag on much fresher tyres. The race looked set to instead be a straight fight between a struggling old-tyred Scott McLaughlin and a hard charging Todd Hazelwood. The pairing ended up finishing third and sixth, respectively.
The two Brad Jones Racing cars almost made contact off the start, but eventually Hazelwood emerged in front of Percat, with Anton de Pasquale, Chaz Mostert, and Jamie Whincup in tow. Behind them, Shane van Gisbergen had passed five cars on lap one, with McLaughlin immediately behind having passed two.
De Pasquale made a good start, but soon lost spots to Mostert, Whincup, Cameron Waters, and van Gisbergen — the battling helping Hazelwood and Percat build a gap. McLaughlin was next in line to challenge de Pasquale, but the Kiwi instead peeled off on lap seven to be the earliest pit stopper. By lap 10 the BJR cars had split; Hazelwood driving away with a handy lead, while Percat faded into the clutches of a three-car battle with Mostert and Whincup.
Mostert finally got by Percat at turn three on lap 15 after an unsuccessful dive at turn two. A weakened Percat ran wide at turn 11, giving Whincup a sniff of a pass up the inside. The pairing rubbed side by side, and Percat made the sudden call to come to pit-lane. This prompted Waters to slow, but this led to van Gisbergen crunching into his rear and sending the Monster Mustang into a spin at pit entry. Van Gisbergen told his team that the contact was unavoidable, and officialdom agreed after their investigation.
Hazelwood finally stopped on lap 19, returning to the track behind the early stopping McLaughlin — who had jumped from the base of the top 10 to the lead but needed to stretch his tyre for a much longer period. Hazelwood’s heart would have skipped a beat when he locked his right-front tyre at turn two. Thankfully for the BJR driver he was able to narrowly keep his position over Whincup.
Mostert stopped on lap 21, dropping him down to seventh on corrected order behind Lee Holdsworth. Van Gisbergen finally stopped on lap 24, resuming in ninth behind Fabian Coulthard. It was a significant lap in the race, as de Pasquale crashed at turn six with suspected right-front suspension failure — prompting the weekend’s first safety car. This eliminated McLaughlin’s lead, and put Mostert and van Gisbergen with their fresh tyres right up with the leaders.
When the race restarted with a nine-lap shootout remaining, McLaughlin led Hazelwood, Whincup, Percat, Mostert, Holdsworth, Waters, Coulthard, van Gisbergen, and Jack Le Brocq in 10th. Van Gisbergen got by Waters and Mostert by Percat not long after, with van Gisbergen also nipping Holdsworth on the following lap. Hazelwood looked to initially have McLaughlin lined up, but a sequence of corners and pressure from Whincup saw the seven-time champ steal second from the former Super2 winner at the final corner.
By the following lap Van Gisbergen and Mostert had also got by Hazelwood to set off after McLaughlin, who’s lead of over a second quickly eroded to nothing by the time the race had arrived on its final five laps. Whincup let van Gisbergen go with four laps to go at turn one. The move was done at turn 11 on the same lap; van Gisbergen outbraking himself slightly to made side-on contact with McLaughlin. This made a gap for Whincup to also get by. The two Red Bull Holdens from here couldn’t be touched; van Gisbergen gathering win number 38 of his Supercars career.
McLaughlin’s next challenge as the finish approached was the fast-approaching Mostert. But despite some beating and banging at the final corner, McLaughlin was able to hold on. Scott Pye came from 11th at the safety car to finish fifth, taking the spot of Hazelwood on the final lap. Percat, Coulthard, James Courtney, and Holdsworth rounded out the top 10.
|Shane van Gisbergen
|Jack Le Brocq
|Anton De Pasquale