Shane van Gisbergen takes 50th Supercars victory with Townsville clean-sweep
Triple Eight Race Engineering rounded out the Townsville 500 with another comfortable one-two as Shane van Gisbergen claimed his 10th Supercars victory of the season ahead of team-mate Jamie Whincup.
Whincup started the second 250km race of the weekend from pole position and again led either side of the two compulsory pit-stops but fell into the clutches of the points leader inside the final 15 laps.
The Kiwi operated an almost identical strategy to Saturday’s opener, staying out longer than Whincup and making the most of fresher tyres for the final stint, with the critical overtake coming at the final corner.
Completing the podium, again by some margin, for the second race in a row was the Dick Johnson Racing Ford Mustang of Anton de Pasquale.
For van Gisbergen, it was his 50th career Supercars victory and one which took the New Zealander ahead of Peter Brock in the all-time list of winners.
Having grabbed pole after a fantastic top 10 shootout lap, Whincup led off the line from van Gisbergen into Turn 1 as the latter had to battle with the fast-starting Brad Jones Racing Commodore of Nick Percat, who momentarily vaulted into second at Turn 3.
Van Gisbergen wasted no time in responding and seized back the position under braking for Turn 11 at the end of the lap.
By this point, Whincup had opened up a slender lead of just over two seconds as de Pasquale – who dropped two places at the start after qualifying fifth – began to make inroads into the Erebus Holden of Will Brown.
Brown initially looked to have the measure of the Mustang but ran too deep into Turn 3 and had to cede the position. The second DJR Mustang of Will Davison and the Blanchard Racing car of Tim Slade also had a crack at Brown, but couldn’t make their moves stick.
Despite a strong start, Percat’s race quickly unravelled at the first round of pit-stops as the BJR Commodore came in unannounced with a suspected power steering issue. A change of steering wheel following a lengthy stop dropped Percat to the rear of the field.
Whincup made his first stop on lap 29 of 88, some five laps before van Gisbergen and taking on four new tyres in the hope that the undercut would pay dividends for the second stint.
It did, but at the expense of the lead gap from his team-mate which was whittled down from 10s to just eight-tenths ahead of the second round of stops.
Again, Whincup emerged in front with a gap of five seconds, but once more van Gisbergen produced a stellar final stint and quickly caught Whincup, passing for the lead with a decisive move at Turn 13 with 15 laps remaining, eventually coming home just under three seconds ahead by the finish.
De Pasquale’s recovery to the podium was completed through a combination of good speed and pit-stop strategy, with the Mustang taking on more fuel than Davison in front of him at the first round of stops, meaning he spent less time in the pits come the second round.
Davison initially held track position after only taking on 54 litres, to de Pasquale’s 70, while the Tickford Racing Ford of Cam Waters also short-fuelled to grab road position ahead of de Pasquale.
Hazelwood took on a similar amount of fuel to de Pasquale and recouped some of the ground lost in the middle stint to finish seventh, with Davison producing another strong finish in the second DJR car to come home fourth behind his team-mate.
Brown came out on top in a frenetic battle for fifth following a late-race overtake on Waters, while behind Hazelwood came Slade.
Walkinshaw Andretti United’s Chaz Mostert ended a frustrating weekend in ninth, just ahead of Tickford’s Jack Le Brocq, with the other Tickford Mustang of James Courtney just missing out on a top ten finish.
The Supercars field do it all over again next weekend as part of the back-to-back Townsville race weekend, with the SuperSprint format replacing the endurance element.