MEDIA RELEASE/Brad Jone Racing - Photos: Velocity Magazine Bryce Fullwood and Andre Heimgartner have fought…
Jamie Whincup started race 24 from pole position and looked on course for a much needed race victory only to fall foul to race control for the second time over the weekend. The indiscretion plummeted Whincup down to 20th and he could only manage to climb back to 16th by the end of the race.
Whincup led a brace of Ford Mustangs away at the start of the race, with Lee Holdsworth, Cameron Waters and Fabian Coulthard immediately behind. Coulthard shuffled Waters back to fourth at the first turn while Shane van Gisbergen dropped Will Davison down to 7th. Cars ran two and three wide through the first series of corners with no serious consequence. Whincup meanwhile had already established a small gap to the rest of the field.
The first round of stops began on lap 6, with Holdsworth and Coulthard amongst the first to take fuel and tyres. Waters did the same on the following lap, while leader Whincup elected to stop on lap 12. McLaughlin inherited the lead from van Gisbergen and Mostert.
David Reynolds stopped on track with a mysterious throttle issue which initiated the race altering series of events.
The Safety Car was dispatched and picked up Whincup as the leader of the race, though he was not actually the leader at that point in time. Whincup had expected the Safety Car to wave him past, even though it continued to display yellow warning lights.
Whincup elected to drive around the safety car, a move which later brought the Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver a pit lane penalty. Lee Holdsworth and Cameron Waters remained behind the official vehicle until the lights turned green and they were given permission to pass. The delay also cost the pair dearly with Holdsworth relegated to 10th and Waters 11th by the time the race resumed. Coulthard and Davison were also compromised in a situation labelled as a “Monumental Stuff-up” by Tickford boss Tim Edwards.
Jamie Whincup was also angered by an error that cost him any chance of the race win.
“The Safety Car should have had green lights on, I wasn’t the leader of the race,” Whincup stated. “The problem is you’ve got all the drivers, you’ve got everyone here, this is our life and we are pushing hard. You’ve got people that are making decisions that are just cruising back, just having a few glasses of red each night and just rocking up to the track. They’re not operating at the same level as what the teams are operating at. It was either stay behind and get screwed like the Tickford guys or just try. I gave them the opportunity to put the green lights on.”
Whincup held the lead at the restart from McLaughlin only to drop down to 20th when called in for his penalty on lap 24. Shane van Gisbergen then took the fight to the new race leader only to gradually drop away by just over 2 seconds as the final pitstop window opened. He was the first of the leaders to take a final stop on lap 39 while race leader covered the move one lap later. Scott McLaughlin emerged from the pits with a 4 second gap to the #97. The current champion regained the race lead when Nick Percat made his final stop on lap 51.
McLaughlin managed his lead for the last stage of the race to finish 1.897 seconds ahead of van Gisbergen, who had kept second despite a spirited charge from Mostert. Mostert came under attack from Nick Percat over the final laps which provided some much needed respite for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver.
The victory gave Scott McLaughlin his 17th win of the season, which surpassed the record held by Craig Lowndes.
“I completely forgot about it,” said McLaughlin when congratulated by Lowndes. “ I wanted so badly to do this on New Zealand soil and I’m stoked. I’m a lucky guy driving a cool car and just a proud New Zealander trying to do my thing. “
Nick Percat finished 4th from Todd Hazelwood, Scott Pye, Simona De Silvestro, Mark Winterbottom, Richie Stanaway and James Golding.
Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen won the Jason Richard Memorial trophy for the event.
The cars will be flown back to Australia early this week so the teams can begin the preparation for the Bathurst 1000 in 3 and a bit weeks time.
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