Gold Coast 600: Van Gisbergen overcomes time penalty, takes Saturday win

Shane Van Gisbergen and co-driver Alexandre Premat emerged victorious in the first 300km race at Surfers Paradise.

Gold Coast 600: Van Gisbergen overcomes time penalty, takes Saturday win
Enduro Cup arrival with Champions Garth Tander and Warren Luff with leading 2016 pairings Will Davison and Jonathon Webb, Shane van Gisbergen and Alex Premat, Nick Percat and Cameron McConville
Shane van Gisbergen, Alexandre Prémat, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
David Reynolds, Craig Baird, Erebus Motorsport Holden
Nick Percat, Cameron Mcconville, Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport Holden
Cameron Waters, Jack Le Brocq, Prodrive Racing Australia
Shane van Gisbergen, Alexandre Prémat, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Mark Winterbottom, Dean Canto, Prodrive Racing Australia Ford
Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Jamie Whincup , Paul Dumbrell, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Craig Lowndes, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Shane van Gisbergen, Alexandre Prémat, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Scott McLaughlin, David Wall, Garry Rogers Motorsport Volvo
Garth Tander, Holden Racing Team
Garth Tander, Warren Luff, Holden Racing Team
Fabian Coulthard, Luke Youlden, Team Penske Ford
Fabian Coulthard, Team Penske Ford

On the grid, all teams opted to start their co-drivers with the exception of Prodrive, putting Mark Winterbottom in first.

Early trouble

The event kicked off cleanly with Premat skipping away while teammate Paul Dumbrell moved into second on the opening lap. But on Lap 2, things got ugly in the middle of the pack. Bathurst 1000 winner Jonathan Webb initiated an incident when he made a late move on Dean Fiore at Turn 4. Fiore was consequently pushed into Craig Baird, who spun.

Cam McConville, Karl Reindler and Russell Ingall all got a piece of it with the track momentarily blocked. Webb was quickly issued a drive-through penalty for the incident.

Meanwhile, things went from bad to worse for McConville, who got knocked around as he dropped down the order with a wounded machine. This continued until he slammed doors with Ash Walsh, spinning backwards into a tire barrier. 

Race leader hit with a time penalty

However, neither of these coming togethers forced a safety car intervention. The first appearance of the safety car did not come until Lap 24 when Jack Le Brocq clipped the inside wall when going for the apex of Turn 11. This sent him into the outside wall at corner exit and then the inside wall after getting run into by Walsh.

The Red Bull team was forced to double stack Premat and Dumbrell, which cost the latter three positions on the track (second to fifth). Premat maintained the race lead, but things wouldn't stay positive for all in the No. 97 garage.

The co-driver was nailed with a ten-second time penalty for breaching safety car procedure on the restart with 75 laps to go. Team manager Mark Dutton explained, "Alex had a bit of jump on the restart but he redressed it. We have got to crack on and do as we are told."

Dean Canto was running second at the time, having replaced Winterbottom during the first pit cycle. The safety car returned on Lap 35 when Reindler popped the Turn 3 wall, stopping off to the side of the circuit.

Varying strategies

Dumbrell and six others stayed out while Premat and the rest pitted. Per race officials, he had to serve the time penalty during a green-flag pit stop, so they couldn't rid themselves of it just yet. Van Gisbergen took over and restarted ninth. With a fast car and fresh tires, he charged through the field with ease.

Within four laps of the ensuing restart, he was running third in a Red Bull 1-2-3. Soon after, he took the lead after giving Dumbrell a bit of a tap out of the final corner. It was around this time when James Courtney was forced back into the garage with a broken steering arm. He returned to the race five laps down.

The final set of stops kicked off with Canto on Lap 60, allowing Winterbottom to re-take the wheel. Van Gisbergen's march paid off, serving his penalty and still emerging with the effective race lead (as some cars had still yet to pit). When things shook out, Scott McLaughlin was on the hunt, keeping his fellow Kiwi honest at the front of the field.

But the battle soon simmered with the No. 97 leaping out ahead once more, building up a comfortable cushion over both McLaughlin and Whincup. 

With 20 laps to go, Chaz Mostert suffered a lock-up and kissed the barriers at Turn 11, but continued relatively unscathed. 

Massive shunt

On Lap 96, the biggest moment of the race unfolded on the front stretch. While fighting for fifth, Garth Tander's nose and Fabian Coulthard's rear bumper hooked together. The DJR Team Penske driver was sent head-on into the outer pit wall, destroying the car and punching a hole in the wall. Tander escaped without much damage at all, but he was handed a drive-through penalty and finished 15th. On top of that, he will face a ten-place grid penalty tomorrow.

Despite the incident taking place at a part of the circuit where cars reach 265kph, Coulthard emerged from the wreckage unhurt.

"It was unnecessary  more than anything," said a despondent Coulthard.

"I've had some big ones and that's well up there. The disappointing thing is that it was preventable. It would have been nice to finish in the top five, but it wasn't to be."

Speaking directly of Tander's opinion, he then added: "He can think what he likes, but at the end of the day, I expected a little bit more from him."

The race resumed for a two-lap sprint to the checkered flag, but McLaughlin and Whincup were no match for the pole-sitter, who repeated his 2015 performance in Race 1.

Padding his points lead

Van Gisbergen secured his sixth victory of the season -- much to the delight of co-driver Premat. The win allowed him to expand his already strong advantage in the championship to 160 points over Whincup, who crossed the line third. McLaughlin held onto second, six tenths back of the winner.

"Unfortunate penalty, but we fought back. Car was amazing," he said after taking the checkered flag. He and Premat now hold an 87 point lead over the Webb/Davison duo in the Enduro Cup standings.

Winterbottom and James Moffat rounded out the top five. They were followed by Craig Lowndes, Dale Wood, Todd Kelly, Mostert, and Chris Pither.

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