Shane van Gisbergen and Jono Webb took a straightforward victory in the first of two 300-kilometre races on the Gold Coast.
It was all too easy for the #97 Commodore on Saturday afternoon, the only inkling of pressure coming as Webb and Alex Premat traded blows in the first stint.
But when a damaged splitter effectively took the Volvo out of the game, it was smooth sailing for the Tekno car. The team could afford to take a nice conservative approach, running a hard-hard-soft strategy, with van Gisbergen able to cruise through the last two stints to take victory.
“It wasn’t just me, we came in with a 10-second lead,” van Gisbergen said. “The car was amazing. To be able to do those times lap after lap, the car was fantastic. It was amazing.”
David Reynolds and Dean Canto finished second, having emerged from the first round of stops as a big winner, the #55 car clearing both the #33 Volvo and the #5 Prodrive Falcon. While he didn’t have the speed to properly challenge van Gisbergen, Reynolds was good enough to keep Craig Lowndes at bay in the closing stages of the race as the pair staged a thrilling battle for second place.
Like for Reynolds, the stops were crucial for Lowndes. After taking over from Steven Richards on Lap 34, Lowndes jumped Tim Slade, James Courtney, and Garth Tander during the second and final round of stops. From there, all he needed to do was get by Rick Kelly – who did a double stint on the soft tyres – which he did on Lap 72 to set up a crucial podium finish.
While he couldn’t quite get past Reynolds, Lowndes did manage to bank a good haul of points on a day when Mark Winterbottom had a shocker.
Title takes a turn
While Lowndes banked plenty of points in third, in terms of the championship it was a day to forget for points leader Winterbottom.
After co-driver Steve Owen put in a solid opening stint in fourth place, things went sour during the first round of stops when Winterbottom was released right into the path of Garth Tander in pit-lane.
The resulting whack did plenty of damage to the front-right of Winterbottom’s Falcon, which required a 14-lap stint in the pits for repairs, and then a drive-through penalty just to add some salt to the wound.
“Pit-lane was congested, half the field pitted on the same lap,” explained team boss Tim Edwards. “There just wasn’t a gap there.”
He was ultimately classified 25th and last.
Tight battle for minor places
The rest of the spots in the Top 10 were hotly contested throughout the race, it all boiling down to a sprint to the finish after a late debris caution.
The most interesting aspect of the battle was Holden Racing Team team-mates Garth Tander and James Courtney, who found themselves running nose-to-tail after the first round of stops.
It stayed that way for the rest of the race, Tander making a dicey pass on Courtney at the re-start to nab fourth place from the #22. Once ahead, Tander was able to leave Courtney behind and even join in on the battle for second between Reynolds and Lowndes, although he couldn’t quite sneak an unlikely podium.
Nick Percat finished sixth, a result set up by an outstanding first stint from co-driver Oliver Gavin. Fabian Coulthard kept his nose clean to finish seventh for him and Luke Youlden, ahead of the Scott Pye/Marcos Ambrose car, while Kelly slipped back to ninth as he struggled to the chequered flag on the oldest set of soft tyres in the field.
Tough day for Whincup, McLaughlin
Scott McLaughlin and Premat, meanwhile, had a brilliant start to the race. The Frenchman expertly shadowed leader Webb for the first 30 laps of the race, only to damage the front splitter by hitting the beach chicane too hard.
While the damage cost him pace, Premat was able to hang on to second until the first round of stops. However, with a long stop McLaughlin re-emerged outside the Top 10, before a power steering failure forced them out of contention.
Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell had a tough race as well, things taking a turn for the worse on just the fourth lap when Dumbrell tagged fast-starting Taz Douglas into a spin while scrapping over fourth spot.
That brought Canto into the game, an subsequent altercation between Canto and Dumbrell later in the lap damaging the #1 Commodore to the extent where it needed to spend 13 laps being repaired in pit-lane.
“We just can’t take a trick at the moment,” said Whincup. “Paul had a lunge at Taz, and then Dean’s had a lunge at him down the bottom. I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, it’s pretty tight around here.”
|Team Darrell Lea STIX Holden||102||2:08:14.3285|
|The Bottle-O Racing Team Ford||102||1.6096|
|Red Bull Racing Australia Holden||102||1.7520|
|Holden Racing Team Holden||102||2.3185|
|Holden Racing Team Holden||102||3.6033|
|Repair Management Australia Racing Holden||102||4.0258|
|Freightliner Racing Holden||102||4.2171|
|DJR Team Penske Ford||102||17.6758|
|Jack Daniels-Nissan Motorsport Nissan||102||19.3793|
|Nissan Nismo Nissan||102||19.7080|
|GB Galvanising Racing Holden||102||19.8607|
|Team Cooldrive Holden||102||23.3661|
|Jack Daniels-Nissan Motorsport Nissan||102||24.3512|
|Supercheap Auto Racing Holden||102||25.1199|
|Erebus Motorsport Mercedes||102||55.3675|
|Wilson Security Racing GRM Volvo||101||1 Lap|
|Pepsi Max Crew Ford||101||1 Lap|
|Super Black Racing Ford||101||1 Lap|
Jack Le Brocq
|Erebus Motorsport Mercedes||101||1 Lap|
|Nissan Nismo Nissan||98||4 Laps|
|Wilson Security Racing GRM Volvo||91||11 Laps|
|Team BOC Holden||89||13 Laps|
|Pepsi Max Crew Ford||88||14 Laps|
|Red Bull Racing Australia Holden||87||15 Laps|
|Walkinshaw Racing Holden||88|