Pukekohe Supercars: Van Gisbergen overcomes penalty to win thriller
Shane van Gisbergen won a thrilling clash of the Supercars title heavyweights at Pukekohe, overcoming a five-second penalty to beat Scott McLaughlin.
It was a battle of car speed over strategy in the first 70-lapper of the weekend, van Gisbergen need to use all of his superior pace to run down McLaughlin in the final stint.
To add to the excitement van Gisbergen was slapped with a five-second penalty for a pass for the lead with 10 laps to go, resulting in a thrilling run to the flag as he tried to stretch the advantage.
He did just enough, too, crossing the line 5.5s clear to secure victory.
That means McLaughlin's series lead has been slashed to just two points, although van Gisbergen will be subject to a post-race investigation for spinning wheels during his second stop.
The race started in dry conditions, McLaughlin holding off a brief charge from van Gisbergen over the opening two laps before easing into a one-second lead.
However the first stint was cut short on Lap 8, the Safety Car called after Fabian Coulthard was fired into the wall at the last corner thanks to a scrap with Lee Holdsworth and Richie Stanaway over 13th place.
That meant almost the entire field dived into the pits, McLaughlin maintaining his track position over van Gisbergen while they both dropped behind James Courtney, who had stopped at the end of the opening lap and didn't need to pit with the rest of the field.
Being bottled up behind the Walkinshaw Holden worked well for van Gisbergen, who piled the pressure on McLaughlin for six laps following the restart. And on Lap 22 he finally got the job done, passing McLaughlin for the effective lead with a bold move at the hairpin.
Van Gisbergen looked quick enough to pull away from McLaughlin, but couldn't find his way past Courtney out front. He did get side-by-side on Lap 31, but Courtney – not a factor in the title fight – was willing to call van Gisbergen's bluff.
On the same lap Penske opted to get McLaughlin out of the battle and into clean air, bringing him in for a second stop.
It took another four laps for van Gisbergen to finally clear Courtney, which meant he could set off to try and limit the effect of McLaughlin's undercut.
With McLaughlin now with the strategic edge, van Gisbergen opted to run a long second stint in a bid to create a tyre advantage late in the race. However trying to lap David Reynolds proved costly, van Gisbergen bottled up for a second time in the race.
That led to T8 calling van Gisbergen in on Lap 45, the Kiwi opting to stay out for another lap before finally yielding to a "pit no option" call from engineer Grant McPherson.
It was a timely call, too, van Gisbergen only just managing to get out ahead of Chaz Mostert.
With the final stops complete, van Gisbergen could set about chasing down McLaughlin's four-second lead on tyres that were 15 laps younger. He made quick progress, but found himself under investigation over spinning wheels during his stop.
Having avoided an on-the-spot drive-through penalty, van Gisbergen got to within half a second of McLaughlin with 12 laps to go. Two laps later he was in the lead, van Gisbergen giving McLaughlin a decent nudge at the hairpin before they staged a stunning side-by-side battle coming onto the main straight.
The stewards, however, deemed the initial nudge a little too hard, slapping van Gisbergen with a five-second penalty.
At that stage he was a little over three seconds clear, with four laps to go. Two laps later it was 4.5s, and by the final lap it was 5.5s – despite van Gisbergen almost running wide as he crossed the line.
“That was one of the coolest races I’ve ever had,” said van Gisbergen.
“We were having a great battle with James Courtney, and the pass with Scotty, he jammed it up quite nice and I just touched the back of him.
“But great respect through the last couple of corners side-by-side and cleared him up over the hill."
Behind the top two, Mostert came home third for Tickford. Reynolds was fourth, while Whincup had to fight back from 16th after the first stops due to stacking to finish fifth.
Scott Pye and Cam Waters were next, followed by Nick Percat, Courtney, and Nissan's Michael Caruso in 10th.
|1||97||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||70|
|2||17||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Falcon FG X||70||0.5119|
|3||55||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG X||70||5.6342|
|4||9||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore ZB||70||13.4297|
|5||1||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore ZB||70||13.7872|
|6||2||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||70||21.4515|
|7||6||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG X||70||22.4276|
|8||8||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||70||23.0903|
|9||25||James Courtney||Holden Commodore ZB||70||25.6220|
|10||23||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||70||26.9813|
|11||888||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore ZB||70||28.1968|
|12||21||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore ZB||70||32.3582|
|13||5||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG X||70||35.2913|
|14||34||James Golding||Holden Commodore ZB||70||38.0223|
|15||18||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore ZB||70||38.7035|
|16||15||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||70||39.2460|
|17||14||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore ZB||70||39.5385|
|18||7||Andre Heimgartner||Nissan Altima||70||40.9448|
|19||99||Anton De Pasquale||Holden Commodore ZB||70||46.9544|
|20||230||Will Davison||Ford Falcon FG X||70||49.9193|
|21||78||Simona de Silvestro||Nissan Altima||70||50.8210|
|22||19||Jack Le Brocq||Holden Commodore ZB||69||1'02.0573|
|23||56||Richie Stanaway||Ford Falcon FG X||69||1 lap|
|24||35||Todd Hazelwood||Ford Falcon FG X||68||2 laps|
|25||33||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore ZB||59||11 laps|
|12||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG X||6|
Pukekohe Supercars: McLaughlin takes pole on home soil
Van Gisbergen escapes penalty, Penske protests decision