ADELAIDE, Australia — In recent years, there’s simply been no one better in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at Adelaide Street Circuit than New Zealand’s Shane van Gisbergen.
The Kiwi kept his unparalleled run of form rolling along Sunday during the finale to the Adelaide 500, inheriting the lead after a transaxle failure for teammate Jamie Whincup and leading 32 of the final 48 laps for his second win in two races to open the Supercars season.
Van Gisbergen’s victory on Sunday gave him four consecutive race wins from the pole in Adelaide, tying a record set by Whincup when the defending champion swept the 2008 and 2009 editions of the event.
“This is just awesome; what a great race,” said van Gisbergen of his 26th-career Supercars win. “Such a shame for what happened to Jamie, though. He had a really dominant car. We went the wrong way with our set-up and had to battle it out there.”
“David was really quick; I expected him to battle me back. It’s just awesome, though. I can’t thank the team enough. This is an awesome debut for the new Commodore with going 1-2-3-4. It’s really good.”
Though van Gisbergen iced the pole, it was Whincup who got the jump at the start, taking the early lead as James Courtney pitted on the first lap from behind in an effort to try and leapfrog to the lead later on.
However, it was Whincup who dominated early, pacing the first 15 laps in succession and cycling back to the point by the 24th round. At that point, third-running Scott McLaughlin had a flat right front tire on lap 27 as he came through turn eight, dropping him to 23rd and moving fellow Ford stablemate Mark Winterbottom up into podium contention.
But Whincup’s troubles were brewing, as he slowed on lap 31 on the run down to turn eight with the car stuck in fifth gear, handing van Gisbergen the lead as Whincup limped slowly to the pits.
Sunday’s race marked the seven-time champion’s first retirement since the opening leg of the Gold Coast 600 in 2013, snapping a 136-race streak where Whincup was running at the finish.
Van Gisbergen then assumed command over Winterbottom and Courtney, who pitted on lap 38, while van Gisbergen came in four laps later and cycled back out in a heated battle for the effective lead behind McLaughlin, who needed one more pit stop to make it to the finish after his tire issue earlier on.
A slick pit stop and strong strategy by David Reynolds saw him sneak out just ahead of van Gisbergen with 33 to go, but the Kiwi was able to barrel down the inside of Reynolds’ Erebus Commodore at turn nine to reclaim command of the race for good.
Though Reynolds kept van Gisbergen honest down the stretch, once McLaughlin pitted with 20 to go the field was in van Gisbergen’s grip. He opened the lead up to a full second with five to go and crossed the line .825 of a second clear.
For Reynolds, who hung on to finish as the runner-up, the result was bittersweet after coming out as the leader following the final round of pit stops.
“I’m killing myself (for not being able to hang on at turn nine), but that guy (van Gisbergen) is pretty good at this track,” lamented Reynolds. “I didn’t expect myself to be that fast, to be fair. I surprised myself.”
“Al [McVean, engineer] did a brilliant job to tune it up. This (finish) is for his old man Andrew, who passed away last week.”
Garth Tander completed the podium in third, followed by Chaz Mostert and Cam Waters.
Notably, McLaughlin rallied from his tire issue to finish 10th.
Meanwhile, Winterbottom was given a black flag on lap 56 for overuse of the turn two curbs, dropping him out of contention after running in the top three during the first half. He came home a distant 13th.
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship returns to action March 22-25 at Albert Park, with the running of the Coates Hire Supercars Melbourne 400.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…