Van Gisbergen wins the New Zealand Grand Prix from pitlane
Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen delivered a masterful drive from the pitlane to win the 66th running of the New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs.
After claiming victory in Race 1 and 2, van Gisbergen’s hopes of a complete sweep in the Toyota Racing Series season opener received a major blow when the fire extinguisher on his car went off while he was still in the pits. With the M2 Competition team unable to fit a replacement unit before the cut-off time, the 2016 Supercars champion was forced to start from the pitlane.
But as the 28-lap contest got underway, van Gisbergen almost immediately caught up with the field, as Daniel Gaunt passed polesitter Kaleb Ngatoa at Turn 2 to take the lead.
Van Gisbergen had climbed his way up to 11th when the safety car was deployed to retrieve the stricken car of Peter Vodanovich, moments after Chris van der Drift broke his front wing while trying to pass Gaunt for the lead.
When the race resumed after the SC intervention, van Gisbergen was immediately on the move, passing a slew of cars to put himself in the front group.
With 14 laps to go, the 31-year-old was up to third, only behind Gaunt and fellow Supercars driver Andre Heimgartner, who was running in a podium position after a rapid start from eighth on the grid.
Van Gisbergen first cleared Heimgartner at the Dipper and then started chasing Gaunt, who had up to this point done enough to hold onto the lead. But the multiple TRS champion ultimately had no answer to van Gisbergen’s pace, with the M2 Competition driver making a lunge at the hairpin with 10 laps to go to move into the lead of the race.
Once out in front, van Gisbergen slowly started carving a gap for himself and eventually won the all-Kiwi race by just over two seconds.
Heimgartner passed Gaunt soon after van Gisbergen completed his move to finish second, while Matthew Payne completed the podium spots.
TRS rookie and polesitter Ngatoa was unable to keep up with the leaders as the race progressed, eventually taking the chequered flag in fourth, nearly 9s off the lead.
Van der Drift recovered from an unscheduled pitstop for a change of front wing to bag a top five result, passing Damon Leitch and Brendon Leitch late in the race.
Gaunt, who led the race for so long, had to ultimately settle for eighth, ahead of Billy Frazer and veteran racing driver Greg Murphy.
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