Race 28 2023 Repco Supercars Championship - Vailo 500 For the second year succession, the…
There was action a plenty at the OTR The Bend Supersprint with three different winners from 3 races and, for the first time in 2021, Shane van Gisbergen did not win. Yet despite the dearth of first place results, van Gisbergen left the track with an extended championship lead. The weekend included a number of firsts as Andre Heimgartner and Anton De Pasquale secured their first victories in the Repco Supercars Championship, while Mark Winterbottom became the first driver in Supercars history to notch up 500 consecutive race starts.
Race 9 Saturday.
The weather played a major role in the grid for Race 9 in the Repco Supercars Championship. Andre Heimgartner took sat on pole with title contender Chaz Mostert in position 2. Mark Winterbottom had been more preoccupied with a power steering issue prior to the race and elected to start from the pitlane when the problem persisted into the formation lap. His race was then spent touring at the rear of the field with an oversized steering wheel to help manhandle the Irwin Racing entry for the entirety of the race. The grid had been bolstered by the inclusion of Thomas Rand;e and Kurt Kostecki for the weekend, with bot wildcards place towards the rear of the Top 20 on the grid.
Most teams had elected to start the race on wet tyre with most of the track still damp, though the pit straight was much drier. Mostert led from the start, while Heimgartner was one of many who struggled to avoid wheelspin as they launched off the line. The Ned Whisky machine became the meat in a Shell V-Power Racing sandwich between Turns 1 and 2 as Anton De Pasquale and Will Davison ranged up on either side of the black and white Mustang. De Pasquale took 2nd from Heimgartner at the exit of Turn 3 and then moved into 1st after Mostert ran slightly wide at Turn 5 and slowed as he regathered control of his WAU Commodore.
De Pasquale then ran wide at Turn 6, which allowed Heimgartner and Mostert to regain their places at the head of the field, while the #11 Shell V-Power Mustang fell down to 6th. The field continued to jostle for position behind Heimgartner and Mostert with Davison down in 6th by lap 2. Heimgartner continued to lead through to the commencement of the pitstop cycle from Mostert, van Gisbergen.
Shane van Gisbergen, Anton De Pasquale, Brodie Kostecki, Will Davison and Cameron Waters were among the first to complete their compulsory stops by lap 7. A problem with the air coupling delayed van Gisbergen’s pit stop, costing him precious seconds as the team sought to extend the hose. Heimgartner, Mostert and Whincup then stopped one lap later with a switch to slick tyres. Whincup closed on the leader as Heimgartner dropped from the air jacks. The Ned Whisky Mustang and the Red Bull Ampol Racing Commodore then made contact as Whincup approached his pit box and Heimgartner pulled out towards the exit lane. The pair touched and Heimgartner was subsequently handed a 5 second post-race penalty for the contact.
Whincup was fortunate not to figure in another incident as he returned to the circuit, when Waters locked up under brakes for Turn 1 and just missed the Red Bull Ampol Commodore as he ran off the circuit, bounced across the gravel and re-entered the track at Turn 3.
Heimgartner edged out to an 8.8 second lead over Mostert on the final lap and took the win with more than enough time in reserve to negate the 5 second penalty. De Pasquale finished 3rd from Cameron Waters, Nick Percat, Jamie Whincup, Shane van Gisbergen, Will Davison, Brodie Kostecki and Jack Le Brocq. Wildcards Thomas Randle and Kurt Kostecki finished 17th and 19th respectively.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said Heimgartner to Kelly Grove Racing Media. “It was so cool to be fastest in qualifying and take pole, that’s always a cool thing, but then to convert that is easier said than done. In the race, the car was amazing and I am so happy to come away with the win. I’m really relived. It’s been a long time that we’ve been trying, myself and the team. I’ve been with the team for four years now and its great to finally pay them back. I’m really happy, kind of like a kid in a candy store in some ways, I don’t know what to do or what to say. I’m all over the shop, can’t wait to get back to the boys and chill out tonight and then go again tomorrow.”
Andre Heimgartner later explained that he had all but given up on a career in Supercars until thrown a lifeline by Kelly Racing at the end of 2017.
“They obviously gave me the chance to come back into Supercars and replace Todd in 2018,” Heimgartner said to Supercars.com. “My career was basically over, I was getting ready to be a finance broker and be out of the sport. Getting the opportunity was massive and that was just after that Gold Coast wet race where I was able to get a 20-second lead.
It’s good to finally repay that. [Todd’s] done a lot for me, well the whole family has, and now the Groves, so it’s really good to be able to repay that finally.”
Race 10 Sunday
The Supercar fraternity awoke to clearer skies and a dry track for Races 10 and 11 at the OTR The Bend Supersprint. Anton De Pasquale and Will Davison made it a Shell V-Power front row for race 10, with De Pasquale on pole. Race 9 winner Andre Heimgartner continued his good form for 3rd on the grid with Tim Slade 4th, while former teammates and sparring partners Chaz Mostert and Cameron Waters started from row 3.
De Pasquale and Davison launched together at the race start and ran side-by-side through Turns 1-2, effectively preventing the rest of the grid from moving by. A slight touch between the teammates at the exit of Turn 2 allowed Slade to squeeze his bonnet inside Davison, but the #`7 held firm. Slade was then squeezed wide by Heimgartner at Turn 5, with the Cooldrive Mustang shuffled over the ripple strip. As Slade moved back on track Mostert was forced to take evasive action and clipped the right rear of Waters in the process. The contact sent the Monster Energy Mustang into a high-speed slide, which saw both Waters and Slade end up in the Turn 6 run-off area.
Waters scraped back towards the garage with the right rear wheel dangling like a loose tooth from the rear bodywork. Mostert fared only slightly better with the WAU Commodore sporting a damaged left front suspension. Macauley Jones was also on a slow drive back to the pitlane with a broken right front suspension damaged in a separate incident.
“I didn’t really know I was at a carnival to be honest,” Mostert said to Fox Sports. “I thought we were racing Supercars, not dodgem cars. It was chaos, everyone really didn’t care about tearing up gear, they just wanted to push cars off and try to wrestle for positions in the early spots.I guess that’s our racing at the moment.”
“I got beside Chaz and I kind of cleared him I thought I was all good,” Waters told Fox Sports. “Obviously Sladey was coming on and Chaz probably overreacted a little bit to Slade coming on and tagged me. It’s a bit of racing, but it’s a little frustrating it’s always Chaz and I. The boys will fix her up and we will make sure we have a straight fast car for this next one and hopefully we can bag some points, because this will hurt our points a little bit. Really, really impressive I had the wheel hanging off it, so they did a mega job to nearly get me out there, but just missed out. “The focus is now to get it straight and get ready for the next race.”
Nick Percat spun at Turn 6 after contact between Kostecki, Reynolds and Winterbottom, who had run three wide on the entry to the corner saw the RJ Batteries car turned around after a touch from Reynolds.
De Pasquale was the first of the leaders to stop on lap 7, then Heimgartner stopped a lap later. The Ned Whisky Mustang stalled twice whilst attempting to move away from the pit box, which cost Heimgartner dearly in the final race results. Davison had taken over the race lead until his stop on lap 11. A small problem with the tyre change saw the #17 swallowed up by De Pasquale and Courtney at Turn 1 on cold tyres. Davison regained the position with a smart move on lap 14, for an effective 2nd place. Van Gisbergen ran long and finally stopped on lap 17, which saw the Red Bull Ampol Commodore in 3rd place but on much fresher tyres.
Van Gisbergen closed onto the back of Davison in 2nd and was less than 3/10ths of a second behind at the start of the final lap. Anton De Pasquale crossed the line to record his second win in the Repco Supercars Championship from Will Davison and Shane van Gisbergen. James Courtney, Brodie Kostecki, Bryce Fullwood, Andre Heimgartner, Thomas Randle, Mark Winterbottom and Scott Pye completed the Top 10. Championship aspirant Chaz Mostert and Cameron Waters were not classified as finishers after their lap 1 contact.
De Pasquale’s win was also Ford’s 400th victory in ATCC/Supercars racing.
Race 11 Sunday
Anton De Pasquale held pole position for Race 11 in the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship from Jamie Whincup. It has not been the best of weekends for the Red Bull Ampol Racing Team and Whincup was hopeful of a better result in the third and final race of the weekend. Shane van Gisbergen lined up directly behind his teammate in 4th, while Cameron Waters had a repaired Monster Energy Mustang on the grid after a frantic effort by the Tickford Racing crew to repair the damage suffered during the previous race earlier in the day. Chaz Mostert and Will Davison completed the third row on the grid.
Whincup ran towards the grippier side of the track towards the left edge, while De Pasquale held his position mid circuit. Van Gisbergen touched his teammate through Turns 1 and 2, while Waters went to the left and emerged in 2nd place at the exit of Turn 3. Will Brown took to the infield grass after contact further down the field.
Anton De Pasquale moved 1 second clear of Waters by the end of the opening lap as the top 4 ran even spaced. Davison was under pressure from Mostert, who had himself survived a lunge by both Nick Percat and then Tim Slade at Turn 6 that saw contact between each of the cars. Thomas Randle was twice pushed off the edge of the circuit in a battle with Jake Kostecki as the midfield jostled for position in the opening laps. Will Brown’s day went from bad to worse when he popped the left rear tyre on the Ozland Group Solutions Erebus Racing Commodore and spun at Turn 2. He then had to ease the car around the circuit for the best part of a lap before making it back to the pitlane for fresh rubber.
The race came to an abrupt stop for De Pasquale when the #11 Shell V-Power Mustang lost all power in a situation De Pasquale compared to Sandown. Waters took control of the race from van Gisbergen and Whincup with Davison now the sole remaining Shell V-Power Mustang left in the race.
“It was one of those day which was close to being perfect,” De Pasquale later said to Shell V-Power Racing Media. “We got two poles, a win in the first race and in a really good position to win the second race. I had a good start, led the first lap and was really happy with how the car felt but then it all derailed from there with an engine issue.”
“Overall it was still an amazing day. To get my first Supercars pole, add another one to the tally, plus win a race is pretty special and the cherry on top was to have Will complete the team’s 1-2 in Race 10.”
Davison, Whincup, Slade, Courtney and Heimgartner were amongst the first to pit before lap 10, while Waters waited until lap 15 for his stop. Shane van Gisbergen continued his trend of running long in the first stint and finally stopped on lap 17 having produced some personal best sectors in the preceding laps. He returned to the circuit in 3rd, behind Percat (who had not yet stopped) and Waters. Percat made his pit stop on lap 21, which handed the lead back to Waters.
By the start of the final lap van Gisbergen had closed to within half a second of Waters in what was a two-horse race for the top step of the podium. Davison was a further 5 seconds behind, just over a second clear of Whincup.
Waters held on to take a remarkable comeback win from van Gisbergen and Davison. Whincup, Mostert, Percat, Slade, Courtney, Pye and Heimgartner rounded out the Top 10.
“I’ve got no words,” Waters told Fox Sports after his win. “We had a fast car all weekend and we were quick in the wet and you know what happened in the first race today. The boys worked so bloody hard to fix the car and not just fix but give me one that capable of winning. The boys earned this one, they gave me a good pit stop and it was up to me.”
Photos, thanks to: James Smith and Ross Gibb
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