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RAIN CHANGES EVERYTHING IN TOWNSVILLE 400 PART TWO

Rain has played a key role in the outcome of Race 18 in the 2019 Virgin Australia Supercar Championship as Scott McLaughlin’s amazing run of race podiums finally came to an end. Cameron Waters snatched pole position from McLaughlin in the shoot out, while contact with David Reynolds on the run towards turn 2 saw the DJRTP Mustang limp back to the pits for repairs and fall a lap behind in the process. 

Further heavy showers throughout the race led to a number of incidents, including a rare crash for Jamie Whincup at turn 6 which brought out the Safety Car when a low oil pressure warning forced the RBHRT driver to stop the car on the approach to the final corner.

“It was very easy to do”, Jamie Whincup explained to Mark Larkham shortly after. “There was so much water off line, especially on that painted curve out there. Some idiot had to do it, didn’t they? The temperatures warm even though it’s raining and you can get tyre temperature, so if there’s no standing water you don’t need wets to get rid of the water, so I can see why people are on slicks, but slicks are high risk. Just a little bit on that painted curve and physics took over.”

Cameron Waters finished 3rd after starting pole and dropping down the order mid race – Photo: Velocity Mag (Darin Mandy)

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The Story:

Rain began to fall as cars headed off on their out lap, though none elected to change to wets. The combination of light rain, hot temperatures and no standing water made slicks the correct choice,as long as drivers kept away from the painted kerbs that littered the circuit.

Wiper blades slashed across the screens of the field as the race began with Waters in front of McLaughlin and Reynolds. McLaughlin looked to move across from the right hand side of the track through the first turn, while Reynolds looked to exploit the inside line on the kink towards turn 2. Reynolds briefly rode the right rear wheel of McLaughlin’s car as he tried to keep the Penrite Racing Commodore off the concrete wall. The impact broke the steering on Reynolds car and dropped the pair down the order as McLaughlin sat trapped to the left of Reynolds car through the corner.

To calls of “Get it back to the Pits,” from his engineer, McLaughlin nursed the damaged number 17 Shell V-Power Mustang around the track. He returned to the track almost a lap down, while Reynolds lost three laps as the team made repairs to the steering arm of the #9 Commodore.

Waters took full advantage of the dramas immediately behind to surge ahead with a 4 second lead by the end of the second lap. Fabian Coulthard worked hard to reduce the deficit as conditions improved and sat on the rear of the Monster Energy Mustang when the pair made their first stop on lap 18 and then left pit lane ahead of the Monster Energy Mustang. It was then that Jamie Whincup found the wall at turn 6 which led to a flurry of pitlane activity as teams looked to take advantage of the Safety Car period.

Coulthard led from Waters, van Gisbergen, Mostert and Percat at the restart, while Anton De Pasquale had dropped to 16th when he took on wet tyres at his stop. The move looked to be a master stroke when the rain intensified just before the half way point of the race. As the majority of the field pitted for wet tyres, De Pasquale enjoyed a 35 second lead over Waters and van Gisbergen. Scott McLaughlin dropped a lap behind when his team elected to add 100 litres of fuel during his first stop, seeing him between Coulthard and Waters on the restart.

The early Safety Car and heavy rain played havoc with race strategies. After two stops only Waters, van Gisbergen and Coulthard had met the mandatory 120 litre fuel drop for the race. The damp conditions were made worse by the painted lines along the street circuit, with both De Pasquale and Waters losing time when they ran wide at turn 2. Mark Winterbottom’s promising start to the day ended early after contact with Macauley Jones at turn 3, which left the Irwin Racing Commodore resigned to the garage with damaged steering. There were further incidents between Andre Heimgartner and James Courtney, while Tim Slade made contact with Simona De Silvestro at the final corner in a battle for 8th position. The indiscretion resulted in a 15 second penalty for Slade and a spin for De Silvestro.

Chaz Mostert thrived in the treacherous conditions and moved into 2nd place before a late stop on lap 6 for a final dash of fuel dropped him to fifth. Cameron Water’s hopes of a podium were compromised when he copped a sizable hit from Nick Percat at turn 3 on lap 54, though worse was to befall on Percat shortly after.

Garry Jacobson brought out another Safety Car when his Rabble.Club Nissan Altima caught fire and stopped on circuit at turn 10 with 9 laps left to run. Another drama then unfolded when Nick Percat’s Commodore caught on fire during a late stop for fuel. The feed line to the refueling nozzle broke, which sent fuel gushing under the raised car. As the air line was released the car dropped onto the ground and the hot exhaust ignited the fuel on the ground and around the rear wing of Percat’s car as he drove down the pitlane.

The combination of wet weather and racing incidents meant that the race ended as a time certain finish, with Shane van Gisbergen first to cross the line behind the Safety Car. Fabian Coulthard and Cameron Waters completed the podium, while Anton De Pasquale, Chaz Mostert, Rick Kelly, James Golding, Lee Holdsworth, Michael Caruso and Simona De Silvestro rounded out the top 10. Scott McLaughlin finished 11th, while David Reynolds was classified in 20th place

“It’s been a tough year for us,” said a relieved Shane van Gisbergen. “We’re getting better, but that one wasn’t me for sure, it was Shippy (engineer Grant McPherson) and the boys. I was really struggling, struggling to keep my head when we didn’t have the grip. They kept it under control and kept me focused until the end. That’s a real team victory.”

“My car was really good at the start in those greasy conditions and I guess towards the end I think my tyres went off a little bit, I don’t know,” said a frank Cameron Waters. “I was really good straight out the box; just lucky to get to the end, there was people going everywhere.”


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