Race 28 2023 Repco Supercars Championship - Vailo 500 For the second year succession, the…
The first shots in the battle for supremacy at Perth’s Barbagallo Raceway were fired on Friday afternoon, with the balance firmly in favour of the Ford Falcon runners. Practice 2 held added importance as the top 10 places determined which drivers would sit out the first stage of qualifying on Saturday.
Scott McLaughlin returned to the top of the leaderboard from Cameron Waters, who made the top 10 with a last minute effort. Shell V Power teammate, Fabian Coulthard was 3rd, with Jamie Whincup the best of the Holden runners in 4th. Anton DePesquale shone yet again in his rookie season to finish 6th, whilst Erebus teammate David Reynolds, fell just short with the 11th fastest time. Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert made it five Fords in the lead group, as the pair sandwiched Tim Slade in 7th. Simona De Silvestro held on to 10th place, after she posted the 3rd fastest time early in the session then sat nervously by the timing monitors as the rest of the field switched to new rubber.
The big loser was Andre Heimgartner. The Nissan driver had topped the opening practice session, but dropped to 21st in the second. Craig Lowndes finished at the bottom of the timing sheet, with his best time of 55.11 over a second off McLaughlin’s best. Lowndes was left to lament what might have been as he fell victim to traffic on his fast lap
Saturday qualifying for Race 11 saw David Reynolds, Craig Lowndes, Will Davison, Scott Pye, Jack LeBrocq and Lee Holdsworth progress to Q2, with Garth Tander and Nick Percat the biggest casualties of the session. Qualifying 2 produced more unexpected results as both Red Bull Racing Holden entries of Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen missed the cut. Craig Lowndes became the sole Triple 8 entry in 7th place. David Reynolds claimed the top place from Mark Winterbottom, Scott McLaughlin, Tim Slade, Will Davison, Fabian Coulthard, Lowndes, Anton De Pasquale, Cameron Waters and Chaz Mostert. The third and final qualifying session saw Scott McLaughlin gain pole from Waters, Coulthard, Winterbottom, Slade and Mostert. David Reynolds dropped from P1 to 7th in the final session, with teammate De Pasquale separated by Craig Lowndes. Will Davison, who had been fastest in the final P3, was 10th.
Scott McLaughlin led into turn 1 as Cameron Waters lost his second place with excessive wheelspin off the line. Fabian Coulthard played shotgun to McLaughlin in second as Mark Winterbottom grabbed the advantage to leap frog his teammate into 3rd. Red Bull Racing’s Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen moved slowly through the pack and gained just a position each by the end of lap 2. Anton De Pasquale’s race was compromised when he was issued with a ten second penalty for a false start.
James Courtney looked to defend 18th place from former teammate Garth Tander as the pack headed down the main straight in pursuit of the two Shell V Power Falcons. The pair made contact at least three times as Tander looked to pass the Walkinshaw Andretti United entry. Courtney pitted shortly after, however he was caught out by the pit entry point and put the number 22 Commodore sideways as he negotiated the corner. Fabian Coulthard also seemed destined for a pitstop as his race speed dropped away. The number 12 Ford was losing contact with McLaughlin and came under increased pressure from Winterbottom in the Bottle-O Falcon. Tim Slade, Cameron Waters, David Reynolds and Craig Lowndes began to queue behind Winterbottom as Coulthard fell 5 seconds behind McLaughlin.
Jamie Whincup made his first stop on lap 16 as the team looked for a strategy to get the number 1 Holden into clean air. A clash at turn 1 between Richie Stanaway and Lee Holdsworth saw the Preston Hire car run through the sand trap. Fortunately, Holdsworth was able to drive out and avoid a potential Safety Car period. Scott McLaughlin then made his first scheduled stop and returned to the track in 10th. Fabian Coulthard stopped one lap later and dropped to 19th. As the mid race point approached Mark Winterbottom held the lead from Shane van Gisbergen, Anton De Pasquale and Nick Percat, though none of these drivers had made their first stop. Scott McLaughlin held the effective race lead in 5th from Mostert, Whincup and Slade. McLaughlin soon passed van Gisbergen, who was also having radio issues, forcing the team to revert to the traditional pit board for communication with their driver.
Mark Winterbottom was the second last of the main drivers to pit and emerged in 19th. The team’s strategy had him on much fresher tyres for the run to the finish. Shane van Gisbergen stopped a lap later and dropped to 19th in the process. Chaz Mostert and Jamie Whincup made contact on the entry to the main straight after Mostert attempted to make a late pitstop. The contact saw Mostert spin across the track and block the pit entry road for a short period of time. After 37 laps McLaughlin led Slade, Waters, Lowndes, Coulthard, Whincup, Kelly, Davison, Le Brocq and a charging Winterbottom. Whincup pitted a short time later when he was given a 5 second penalty for the incident with Mostert.
Scott McLaughlin eased out to a 7.6 second lead over Tim Slade as Mark Winterbottom took full advantage of his fresher tyres and moved into 5th place. He soon passed Craig Lowndes, Cameron Waters and then Tim Slade. He found the gap to McLaughlin too much to overhaul in the remaining laps and settled for the runner’s up position. Shane van Gisbergen also moved ahead on his fresher tyres and grabbed 3rd from Slade during the final laps of the race. Slade, Lowndes, Whincup. Waters, Davison, Coulthard and Percat rounded out the top 10.