Race 28 2023 Repco Supercars Championship - Vailo 500 For the second year succession, the…
It was a good day to be a Ford driver on the Gold Coast as Chaz Mostert gained his first win in a year for the Tickford Racing Supercheap Auto Team, while Alexandre Premat survived an early scare to help Scott McLaughlin regain the lead in the 2018 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship. Conversely, it was a day to forget for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team as a couple of pitlane misjudgments cost the team dearly.
The race began with only Craig Lowndes on the grid as team elected to start the race with their back up driver. Lowndes was desperate to claw back positions early in the race after he was demoted to 21st on the grid for an incident with Richie Stanaway in the qualifying session.
Premat held a narrow advantage over Paul Dumbrell as the field scrambled for position on the run to the first chicane. Premat held a narrow advantage for the first lap and a half, but was almost an early casualty when he left a small gap on the approach to turn 12 and Dumbrell was quick to seize on the opportunity. Premat moved across to take the corner and made contact with the #1 Red Bull Holden. The Shell V-Power Falcon was sent sideways towards the outside wall and made contact with the protruding tyre stack. Opinion was divided as to whether Dumbrell was at fault, though no action was taken by race officials.
Premat dropped to fifth by the time he was able to return to race speed and was relieved to report to the DJRTP crew that he did not notice any damage to the car. Dumbrell led from Tony D’Alberto by almost 2 seconds when the first round of pit stops began in earnest on lap 23, the stops triggered by a significant crash for Will Brown.
The #99 Erebus Penrite machine tagged the wall at the exit of the chicane then ploughed into the outside wall on driver’s right. Brown was turned around by the impact as the car came to rest on the racing line and head on to the oncoming traffic. In the immediate moments after the impact, most driver elected to move to the extreme left of the circuit and avoided contact with the stranded car. Steve Owen chose to steer the Rabble.club Falcon to the right and hit the front left of Brown’s car as he tried to squeeze along the wall. The impact tore the front wheel from the #99 Erebus machine and also damaged the front left on Owen’s car.
“I don’t know what happened,” Brown said of the incident. “ I thought the approach was pretty good, I just tagged the wall on the left and it spat me into the right. The scariest part was facing the cars. They were all facing me and couldn’t really see me, so it was pretty frightening”.
In the seven laps it took rescue crews to recover the damaged cars, the complexion of the race changed dramatically. While Paul Dumbrell escaped penalty for the earlier contact with Premat, an incident with James Moffat led to a pit lane penalty. Earl Bamber was left behind Dumbrell as the team chose to double stack their cars and then he was also handed a pitlane penalty for an unsafe release. Ash Walsh also suffered with a wheel issue in the Freightliner Commodore and lost 2 laps as the BJR team repaired to the brakes.
DJRTP elected to short fuel the Coulthard/ D’Alberto Falcon to avoid a potential double stack for the McLaughlin and Premat. The move enabled Premat to maintain his fifth place in the field. D’Alberto’s short stop ensured that the #12 maintained the race lead at the restart on lap 30. James Moffat assumed the lead six laps later when D’Alberto let the #55 Supercheap Auto Falcon past as he looked to save fuel and stretch the number of laps before a final stop. Alexandre Premat assumed second after D’Alberto stopped on lap 56 and Luke Youlden locked the brakes on the #9 Erebus Penrite Commodore two laps later.
Chaz Mostert held an 2.5 second lead when Moffat handed over the #55 Tickford Racing Falcon to its regular custodian. James Courtney held second from a charging Autobarn Commodore with Lowndes back behind the wheel. David Reynolds and Scott McLaughlin rounded out the top 5. Lowndes and Courtney staged a tense battle for second as they both kept one eye on the fuel gauge. Lowndes was told by his team to pass or save fuel as David Reynolds closed in. Lowndes finally made the move at the beach chicane with five laps left. Courtney was then forced to fend off Reynolds over the final moments of the race.
The Supercheap Auto Falcon cruised away from the battle behind to record a comfortable 9.5 second win.
“James drove the wheels off it and gave it back in a good position. I just tried to manage the gap and look after the car,” Mostert said. “It’s been a tough year, it really has and this guy is unbelievable. We’re lucky to have him.”
The win for Moffat doubled his tally in Supercar racing after his maiden Winton victory five years ago.
“I’m just lucky to drive this car with Chaz, he’s a massive talent, an absolute animal, so I thank him for having me along for the ride,” said a suitably enthusiastic Moffat. “I’ve been trying so damn hard to get one of those surfboards and we got one.”
Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards improved their chances of winning the Pirtek Endurance trophy with a stunning climb up the field to finish second.
“We changed our strategy because of where we were starting and the Safety Car came out perfectly when we needed it,” Lowndes admitted.
For James Courtney his race became one of fuel conservation and he was powerless to stop the charging Lowndes.
“The fuel alarm came on just as I went into pitlane. Our thing is amazing on economy, the boys in the engine shop have done an amazing job,” said Courtney. “So we could pit a bit earlier, get track position and try to hang on. That thing of Lowndes had so much pace in the end and I had no tyres.”
Shane van Gisbergen benefitted from a steering issue for Rick Kelly as he climbed into the top ten at the finish, though it wasn’t enough to maintain his championship lead. Scott McLaughlin’s fifth place finish turned a 19 point deficit into a 14 point lead. McLaughlin, while pleased to have regained the championship lead was simply relieved to have survived the race.
“I think possibly something is bent after the hit with the wall, it’s pretty hard on the right rear there,” McLaughlin explained. “It just didn’t feel right, we’ll have to look at it tonight and see what went on. We struggled to get the power down, traction wise and on the right handers. There’s not many of them, but it was really bad turn wise. It’s a good result. We’re solid, but we have to look at it and see if it’s bent.”
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