Townsville Supercars: Van Gisbergen holds on for Sunday win

Shane van Gisbergen won an eventful second Supercars race in Townsville, with James Courtney and Mark Winterbottom drag racing to the finish for second.

Townsville Supercars: Van Gisbergen holds on for Sunday win
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
James Courtney, Holden Racing Team
Mark Winterbottom, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
David Reynolds, Erebus Motorsport Holden

Van Gisbergen’s race was almost derailed right at the beginning, a lock-up leaving him with a nasty flat spot to contend with during the first stint. That led to the Triple Eight crew making the crucial decision to swap strategies between van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup, which meant the Kiwi made his first stop of Lap 11 to grab a fresh set of rubber.

He popped up in second behind Mark Winterbottom from the first round of stops, and held station when the majority of the field made their second stops behind the Safety Car on Lap 32.

The crucial moment for van Gisbergen came a lap after the restart, the Red Bull Commodore sliding past Winterbottom’s Ford at the last corner to take a lead he would hold onto until the end.

There was one late scare, a second Safety Car eight laps from the end giving the opportunity for a bunch of drivers to jump onto fresh tyres for the dash to the flag. Van Gisbergen opted to stay out, braving the five-lap dash to the finish to take an impressive win.

“I knew that pass on Mark was really critical, to try and get in front in clean air and keep the tyres cool,” said van Gisbergen. “I just tried to back up into him and wear out his tyres. I was a bit worried after the Safety Car, but I had heaps of grip.”

Second place was decided by four hundredths of a second, James Courtney winning out as he and Winterbottom drag raced to the finish. Having dived into the pits as soon as the late Safety Car was called, Courtney found himself sitting in ninth, but best of the cars on new rubber, when the race restarted on Lap 65.

He wasted little way barging his way through, flying past the likes of Jamie Whincup and Scott McLaughlin to end up on Winterbottom’s rear bar at the final corner, before powering past to grab second at the line.

Whincup came home fourth, but even that took a little bit of good fortune. Having been shifted onto a strategy meant for van Gisbergen early in the race, Whincup ran an incredibly long first stint, not making his first stop until Lap 24. He popped out way down in 12th, but the first Safety Car fell perfectly for him.

That put him up into fourth, which he turned into third on Lap 59 when he squeezed past David Reynolds. But third quickly became fourth again thanks to Courtney’s late charge.

Scott McLaughlin finished fifth, Cam Waters sixth, and Scott Pye seventh.

Craig Lowndes finished the race 10th, but he had to pull a rabbit out of the hat to do it. A tyre issue meant he had to make a third stop before the late Safety Car, which sent him tumbling down outside the Top 20. But when half the field dived into the lane eight laps from the end, he popped up in 14th – which he turned into 10th at the finish.

Reynolds, meanwhile, was shuffled back to 14th at the finish after running inside the Top 3 for the majority of the race.

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