Shane van Gisbergen has won the opening race of the Armor All Sydney SuperNight, leading home teammate Jamie Whincup under lights after running him down earlier in the race; the gap an immense 17 seconds. Will Davison rounded out the podium.
Polesitter Will Brown led the opening laps and looked good by the time the first round of pit-stops commenced. But a second problematic pit-stop in as many weekends put paid to his chances of a maiden victory.
Van Gisbergen’s win means his championship lead over Whincup has extended to a whopping 346 points.
From pole Brown had a solid start, surviving a secondary Jamie Whincup challenge on the outside of turn one to retain the lead. As opposed to last weekend’s starts, it was a messy one here; Davison shuffled wide following contact with van Gisbergen before running ride at turn two, and Garry Jacobson spinning at turn two with Jake Kostecki.
At the end of lap one’s argie bargie, Brown led Whincup, van Gisbergen, Brodie Kostecki, Cameron Waters, and Davison. From the back De Pasquale had made decent progress, ending the lap 22nd.
Brown’s pace was excellent; the Erebus driver quickly building a half-second buffer to Whincup and a 1.3-second gap to van Gisbergen. Most of the frontrunners were on the Dunlop hard tyre, with Jack LeBrocq the first of those on softs. By lap four he had climbed to fifth.
This became fourth on lap five when Whincup, Davison, Chaz Mostert, and a raft of others peeled into pit-lane to make their first pit-stops. Brown stopped a lap later to cover the trailing stopping pack, taking on four new tyres. But, for the second weekend in a row, a rough Erebus pit-stop would cost him a spot at the pointy end.
Things would go from bad to worse for Erebus Motorsport, with Brodie Kostecki inheriting a drive-through penalty for breaching pit-lane speed limit, surrendering his spot in what would’ve been the top five.
Brown’s stop appeared to be solid initially, only to fall apart with the right-front tyre change due to a fumbled wheelnut, costing him over 10 seconds. This dumped the polesitter down the field, to the point where he was just in front of De Pasquale, who’d stopped on the same lap.
As is often the case, Red Bull kept van Gisbergen out for a much longer opening stint, sacrificing the Kiwi’s ability to cover the undercut in order to give him better tyres for the final phase of the race. LeBrocq on his softs was persevering, too, as was Waters.
Van Gisbergen finally stopped on lap 11, with LeBrocq following suit two laps later. With the leaders all stopped by lap 15, Whincup led van Gisbergen by seven tenths with half the race still to go. Davison was third ahead of LeBrocq (on his hard tyres), Mostert, Tim Slade, Nick Percat, and Bryce Fullwood.
Van Gisbergen’s stronger tyres helped him quickly bridge the gap to Whincup. And, after a fierce run through the final handful of corners on lap 16, he was able to get a run on Whincup out of the final corner and get the lead on the front straight.
Van Gisbergen was able to storm away with the race from here, eventually winning by 17 seconds. With Whincup grabbing what became a quiet second place, the main question was who would win the battle for third.
Percat was the hard charger in the closing laps, quickly dispatching Slade, an ailing Mostert on old tyres, and LeBrocq before latching onto the back of Davison in third.
Percat shadowed Davison for several laps, at one point making contact coming out of turn two. Davison’s defence was textbook, not allowing the BJR driver to get any meaningful overlap. The 2011 Bathurst 1000 winner’s aggression eventually tapered off when his tyre condition went south.
In the end, Davison was able to hold on for third, with Percat having to settle for fourth. Hazelwood was a quiet achiever, netting fifth ahead of LeBrocq, Slade, and Waters in eighth.
The other big battle in the end was the fight for ninth and 10th. The two positions had been fought between Fullwood, Mostert, Brown, De Pasquale, and James Courtney. But it was a rapid-charging Scott Pye that was able to get by all of them to claim ninth, with Fullwood taking 10th.
To add insult to injury, Mostert, De Pasquale, and Courtney were among those to get handed a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits in the race’s dying moments.
Brown, De Pasquale, Macauley Jones, Mostert, and Courtney rounded out the top 15.