Race 28 2023 Repco Supercars Championship - Vailo 500 For the second year succession, the…
Shane van Gisbergen scored his 10th win in the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship and his 50th Supercars career victory in the second and final race of the NTI Townsville 500. The result also saw the Kiwi driver surpass the late Peter Brock in race wins. In a repeat of the Saturday result, Jamie Whincup finished 2nd and Anton De Pasquale well back in 3rd.
The Red Bull Ampol Racing Team once again held sway at the top of the order at the conclusion of the Armor All Shootout. This time it was Jamie Whincup who took pole ahead of Shane van Gisbergen. It was Whincup’s first pole of the season and 90th in an illustrious full-time career that draws to a close at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
As the lights went out it was Jamie Whincup who led comfortably on the run through Turns 1 and 2 as teammate Shane van Gisbergen found himself under attack from the BJR cars of Todd Hazelwood and Nick Percat. He had dropped behind both BJR cars on the approach to Turn 2, but moved back ahead of Hazelwood and then pressured Percat for 2nd on the entry to Turn 3.
A neat move down the inside at Turn 11 saw van Gisbergen return to 2nd as the drivers prepared themselves for the remainder of the 88 lap mini-enduro. Macauley Jones was turned around and then James Courtney and Scott Pye ran wide at the same corner after contact from Fabian Coulthard in the melee that followed. Pye returned to the pits with a damaged right steering arm for the second time for the weekend.
Whincup led from van Gisbergen, Percat, Hazelwood, Waters, Brown, De Pasquale, Slade, Davison and Reynolds as they returned to the Pit Straight for the start of lap 2. The Red Bull Ampol Racing pair gradually edged away from 3rd placed Percat by some 3/10ths of a second per lap. By lap 8 the gap sat at just over a second from van Gisbergen to the first of the BJR cars, but had grown to 8 seconds by lap 20.
The Matt Stone Racing cars of Jake Kostecki and then Zane Goddard were the first to make their opening stops, while Will Davison was the first of those amongst the lead group to do so on lap 24. Nick Percat surprised the BJR team when he peeled into the pitlane on lap 26 and lost time as his crew lunged for rattle guns and scurried into position. Team owner Brad Jones later told Fox Sports that Percat had reported a problem with the power steering and, due to some form of miscommunication, had come into the pitlane as the team were looking for a larger steering wheel. The delay dropped the BJR driver from 3rd to 22nd.
Whincup made his first stop on lap 28 and van Gisbergen, who usually ran longer in the first stint of the race, did so on lap 33. He returned to the circuit 9 seconds behind his teammate, having added almost 20 litres more fuel than Whincup had done in his stop.
David Reynolds led the race at that point and was the only driver who had not yet made a pitstop. Whincup was 2nd some 5 seconds behind, with van Gisbergen 3rd. Davison, Slade, Courtney, J.Kostecki, Le Brocq, De Pasquale and Waters were the top 10 runners at that time. Reynolds finally made his opening stop on lap 34.
At the half distance point of the race Whincup continued to lead van Gisbergen by 6.6 seconds ahead of the Shell V-Power pair of Will Davison and Anton De Pasquale a further 12 seconds further back. Waters. Hazelwood, Brown, Slade, Le Brocq and Fullwood rounded out the top 10.
David Reynolds hopes for a good result fell away during his final stop on lap 56 when his crew noticed an issue with the right front wheel. The team worked to rectify the problem in the pitlane with Reynolds eventually returning well down the order.
“They reckon its done a front wheel bearing and it’s toast,” Reynolds told Fox Sport’s Jack Perkins. “It’s really hard to drive, you can’t circulate like that, it’s impossible. They’ll probably try to repair it and get me back out there to score some points. I originally thought that it was a flat tyre and I reported something, but they said it was pick up and I pressed on. It got worse and worse and I came in and put a new set of tyres on then they said it was toast. My coolsuit failed around lap 20, so I’m pretty toast. I’m glad I came in!”
Will Davison stopped shortly after and dropped down to 13th by the time he reached the pit lane exit. Jamie Whincup then made his final stop on lap 61 in what was called a pivotal moment in the race. Whincup needed a larger fuel load for his final stint than van Gisbergen, who was expected to stop some 5 laps later. Whincup did hold an ace up his sleeve with a green set of Dunlop tyres for the run to the chequered flag.
Jamie Whincup held a 4 second advantage over his fellow Red Bull Ampol Racing driver when van Gisbergen exited the pits after his final stop on lap 66 of 88.
That gap closed by lap 76 to less than 1/10th of a second and van Gisbergen looked to dive down the inside of his teammate at Turn 11. The move, though unsuccessful at the time, set the #97 on the inside line at the final corner. Shane van Gisbergen took the lead as the pair headed down the straight at the commencement of lap 77 of 88
“That’s a pretty awesome number (50 Supercars wins), thank you,” Shane van Gisbergen told Garth Tander. “Thanks again to Red Bull Ampol Racing, our cars were fantastic. Another sub-par start from me and then had to pay for it all race. I feel a lot better today, I paced myself and felt a lot smoother. Just awesome to get another 300 pointer.
The car still understeers and oversteers and wears out the tyres but you see a lot of people really battling out there. I really can’t thank our engineering team enough and everyone who has pushed along these cars. Even though we are out in front we are constantly developing things and trying stuff. I love it!
Jamie fought hard today, I knew I had to come back at him and it was awesome. I love racing Jamie. You know you’re always conscious not to hurt but I did a bit of a block pass there at the last corner to back him up, yeah awesome it!”
Jamie Whincup found himself once again behind his teammate at the chequered flag after leading the vast majority of the race.
“We gave it everything we had, but just quite good enough. I’m obviously wrapped for the team result,” Jamie Whincup said during the podium interview. “All the Red Bull Ampol supporters that come out, it couldn’t be a better weekend, but there is a part of me that is gut-wrenched. I led a hundred and forty something laps and I didn’t get any chocolates, so that bit is painful but I have to put it aside and recognise that we are all part of a big team and we couldn’t have had a better weekend.
I wanted it (the win) bad and gave it everything, but I knew at the end of the first stint that we were in a bit of trouble. The #97 car was probably a bit better over the race pace. We were either going to get the undercut or be a sitting duck at the end.”
Photos: James Smith
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