Double heartbreak for one young Kiwi was elation for another in zero visibility at Sydney Motorsport Park on what became another challenging day for Ford’s Mark Winterbottom.
New Zealand’s wet track demon Shane van Gisbergen smashed the V8 Supercars field in the two Saturday sprints, beating Garth Tander (from fourteenth) in the first race and Craig Lowndes; then Chaz Mostert and Jamie Whincup in an even wetter second race.
Van Gisbergen’s two victories gave Holden the V8 Supercars Manufacturers crown for the fifth year in a row just over halfway into the season and largely due to the form of Red Bull Racing Australia and more recently the Holden Racing Team.
But while one Kiwi was celebrating a double, young Volvo superstar Scott McLaughlin was left shattered with mechanical dramas while running in the front pack in the first race and then more issues in race two when starting from ARMOR ALL Pole Position.
Jamie Whincup’s fourth and third helped him build his Championship lead to 69 points over Winterbottom who came home eleventh and twelfth after qualifying combined with the horrendous conditions had him struggling all day.
Whincup became the best qualifier at the highest level of Australian motorsport with his ARMOR ALL Pole Position in the first race. It lifted his tally to 58 – one ahead of the immortal Peter Brock – as the driver to sit in the number one box more times than anyone.
“It’s an amazing feeling – I remember early in my career I wasn’t sure I could get a pole position, it took me two years to get one,” Whincup said of breaking the record, which was set by Brock at Oran Park in 1997.
“I thought maybe pole wasn’t my thing, but I’ve learnt the art and there’s nothing better than new tyres, new brakes and a great car. I’m certainly not going to compare the past to the present, that’s unfair, but happy for the pole positions I’ve gotten for myself and the team.”
Like the many famous New Zealand thoroughbreds, Van Gisbergen was largely unchallenged in either race even with the occasional safety car bringing the field back to him. He won the opening race by almost 10 seconds and the second by just 0.7s from a fast finishing Mostert.
“Awesome,” Van Gisbergen said of the twin victories. “I had to fight for it in the last one. After the safety car my tyres were gone and I could see Chaz doing some good lines in the mirror. I copied him a bit and just held him out.”
Whincup’s consistency when not winning has helped him jump to the lead of the Championship coupled with two consecutive struggles by Winterbottom.
“Good fun actually. It was all going on at the restart, which I really enjoyed. My car was good, just kept mowing the grass that was the only problem,” Whincup said of a race where most drivers spent time either sideways or off track.
The wet weather trouble started before the first race – David Reynolds and Mostert, who tried to complete the formation lap on slick Dunlop tyres, ran off the road simultaneously at turn six, having to be retrieved to line up on the grid.
Van Gisbergen – a superstar in the wet – pounced from sixth off the start, while drama unfolded in the pack on the first lap. He knocked off each of the front runners, showing why he’s renowned as a wet weather specialist.
Tander, who started 14th, also carved through the field, as some of the front runners fell away – Whincup dropped back to finish fourth, and a late engine drama for McLaughlin meant he only finished 11 laps.
In the second contest Van Gisbergen and Fabian Coulthard got great jumps off the start, and it was four abreast into turn one, with front row starters Whincup and McLaughlin rubbing panels.
McLaughlin’s Valvoline Racing GRM team changed the engine in just over an hour between races but their miraculous effort went unrewarded with a mechanical failure early in the second race. It meant McLaughlin was unable to convert his ARMOR ALL Pole Position for the final race.
His teammate Robert Dahlgren lost control shortly after, a crash at turn five bringing out the first Pedders Chrysler Safety Car and minimising van Gisbergen’s lead.
The Nissans and Holden Racing Team cars looked threatening throughout the race, but with drivers running wide and wild in the wet, with a few altercations through the pack, ultimately it was Mostert – up nine positions from the start – and Whincup who held onto the podium position.
Pulling to the side with a handful of laps to go, McLaughlin triggered a safety car, closing up van Gisbergen’s lead. But he was straight back on the pace and didn’t falter on the way to the line.
It was another great day for Nissan with Michael Caruso rounding out the top five in race one and Rick Kelly sixth. Erebus’ Will Davison, Courtney, Jason Bright and Scott Pye in the top 10.
Erebus Motorsport V8’s Davison had back to back good performances with fifth in race two just behind Team BOC’s Jason Bright, Nissan’s James Moffatt was sixth, Courtney seventh, Rick Kelly eighth and Russell Ingall a top ten in the Repair Management Australia Racing Commodore.
Results - 24 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Shane van Gisbergen Tekno Holden 47m02.9787s 2. Chaz Mostert FPR Ford +0.7167s 3. Jamie Whincup Triple Eight Holden +3.3736s 4. Jason Bright Brad Jones Holden +5.4642s 5. Will Davison Erebus Mercedes +8.8532s 6. James Moffat Nissan +11.2052s 7. Fabian Coulthard Brad Jones Holden +14.3714s 8. James Courtney HRT Holden +15.1094s 9. Rick Kelly Nissan +16.0602s 10. Russell Ingall Dumbrell Holden +16.9037s 11. Craig Lowndes Triple Eight Holden +17.3905s 12. Mark Winterbottom FPR Ford +19.1792s 13. David Reynolds Rod Nash/FPR Ford +20.4292s 14. David Wall Dick Johnson Ford +24.7174s 15. Lee Holdsworth Erebus Mercedes +26.8372s 16. Jack Perkins Schwerkolt/FPR Ford +29.5075s 17. Todd Kelly Nissan +29.6956s 18. Dale Wood Britek/BJR Holden +33.6576s 19. Nick Percat Walkinshaw/HRT Holden +34.3539s 20. Michael Caruso Nissan -1 lap 21. Scott Pye Dick Johnson Ford -2 laps Retirements: Garth Tander HRT Holden 21 laps Scott McLaughlin GRM Volvo 8 laps Robert Dahlgren GRM Volvo 1 lap Tim Slade Rosenberg/HRT Holden 0 laps