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Race 28 2023 Repco Supercars Championship – Vailo 500
For the second year succession, the Vailo 500 has, rather fittingly, shone the light on a rookie Supercars star of the future.
In 2022 it was Broc Feeney who scored his first supercars victory on the streets of Adelaide.
In 2023 it was Matt Payne who took an emphatic victory.
The Penrite Racing Mustang driver brushed off the prospect of a front row start alongside champion-elect Brodie Kostecki and stormed into the lead before the Senna Chicane. From there the Kiwi driver was untouchable, opening up a comfortable cushion that only grew as the race progressed.
Chaz Mostert held third from the start, just ahead of Race 27 winner Cameron Waters. Broc Feeney held the fort for Red Bull Ampol Racing in fifth, some ten places up on teammate Shane van Gisbergen.
Unlike Race 27, the field settled in to a race pattern without the opening lap incidents of the day before. The race eventually ran all 78 laps without the need for a Safety Car.
It may well have been a different story if Jack Le Brocq had been unable to back his Truck Assist Camaro from the tyre wall at the final corner. Contact with Nick Percat on Lap 6 had seen the #34 slide across the grass and into the tyre wall on the entry to the pit straight. He managed to get back on track and amble back to the garage with a wayward left front wheel.
The only other incident of note throughout the race was a rather bizarre pitlane collision for Macauley Jones and James Golding. Jones had travelled down the lane for a scheduled stop and turned into the BJR pit bay as Golding was released from the PremiAir garage immediately behind.
Golding hit the right rear of the Pizza Hut Camaro, sending Jones perpendicular to his bay. The BJR crew quickly jacked the car and swung it back around, while Golding received a penalty for the contact.
As the race moved towards the final quarter of the race Payne held a seven second lead over Feeney, Reynolds, Waters, Heimgartner, Kostecki, Mostert, De Pasquale, Randle and Davison.
Kostecki’s race almost came undone at Turn 9. Caught out by Heimgartner braking earlier, the #99 locked a wheel and slithered towards the rear of the BJR Camaro. Kostecki managed to turn left and away from car ahead in a move that cost him two positions.
Payne edged out to a nine-second win at the chequered flag, while Feeney withstood a late charge from Reynolds for second.
Mostert was able to achieve what Kostecki couldn’t in taking fifth pace from Heimgartner, while De Pasquale also managed to finish ahead of the champion-elect. Davison and Randle completed the Top 10.
It was a disappointing farewell weekend for Shane van Gisbergen. Undoubtably the shining star in Supercars racing throughout the past decade and a half, It was a pointless final weekend for the three times champion, with dnfs in both races.
A race ending crash with Will Brown on Saturday was followed by another bump with the Coca Cola Racing by Erebus #9 on Lap 5. A handling issue arose soon after that led to multiple pitstops and an eventual retirement.
The reigning champion had climbed to fifth during the initial pit stop cycle before those problems affected the performance of his car.
David Reynolds recorded his second podium for the round in what must have been a bitter-sweet moment for the departing Penrite Racing driver.
Reynolds spent years with Erebus Racing and was quick to congratulate the team on their success in the first year of Gen 3.
He now departs Penrite Racing on the back of a recent run of success that included double race wins and two podiums for the team in the year.
Whilst one Kiwi star leaves Supercar Racing for a shot at NASCAR, a new star shone on the streets of Adelaide in the form of Matt Payne.
“I’ve got to thank Penrite Racing for the fast car, it was such a jet!” Payne exclaimed.
“Everyone’s been working so hard here, to crack a win with Dave at the Gold Coast was amazing, and now finally I get to get my first win in Adelaide. So stoked, so proud of everyone.”
Whilst it was not the farewell van Gisbergen and Red Bull Ampol Racing may have anticipated, it was perhaps a positive for Supercars.
“Congratulations to Broc and the team on a great result today,” Shane van Gisbergen told Red Bull Ampol Racing Media.
“It would have been good to have joined him on the podium as I thought our car was going good, but unfortunately we have some sort of issue that we couldn’t fix. It was amazing to again get the fan choice award for most popular driver – I never know what to say when I get awards like that as it’s always a surprise to me.”
“I’ve had an amazing time with the team at Triple Eight so thanks to them for a great few years – I had a blast and I’m sure I’ll be back one day.”
Life goes on, so it seems for the Repco Supercars Championship.
A new champion was crowned, even though Brodie Kostecki wasn’t able to convert a pole position into one more win to cap off a stellar season. The championship title and a Coca Cola salute was more than enough compensation.
“It was a bit of a tough race and we stuffed up the strategy a bit but I am stoked to get both the teams and drivers championships knowing how much it means to the team,” Brodie Kostecki said.
“A lot of people counted us out halfway through the season when we went through a bit of a lull but we came back bigger and stronger with great car speed and awesome pit stops.”
“We are truly humbled to be here and it is starting to sink in now.”
Two wins for Ford after a harrowing start to the Gen 3 era and another rookie winner in the final race of the year, sets the scene for more excitement and even better racing in 2024.
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