Townsville Supercars: Van Gisbergen prevails in fireball thriller
Shane van Gisbergen prevailed in a wild wet weather Supercars encounter in Townsville that ended with a spectacular pitlane fireball.
The Red Bull Holden driver outlasted Fabian Coulthard and Cam Waters to secure a second win of the season in what was the first ever wet race at the Townsville street circuit.
His victory came behind the Safety Car, though, thanks to a late-race fireball in pitlane sparked by a fuel rig failure at Brad Jones Racing.
Points leader Scott McLaughlin, meanwhile, was forced to recover to 11th, after a first-lap clash with David Reynolds left the two frontrunners at the back of the field.
The race started in the trickiest of conditions, falling rain too light to necessitate a switch to wet tyres, but consistent enough to make life hard on slicks.
Surprisingly it was the category's two form drivers that fared worst at the start, McLaughlin and Reynolds clashing on the run to Turn 2 as the Penske driver tried to cover a fast-approaching Erebus Holden.
The clash meant both cars were in the pits by the end of Lap 1, McLaughlin needing a fresh right rear tyre and Reynolds requiring a new steering arm.
Out front polesitter Waters bolted in the wet conditions, pulling almost 10s clear of the field.
However drying conditions from Lap 10 onwards started to suit second-placed Fabian Coulthard, who closed the gap to less than 2s, before jumping Waters when the pair pitted together on Lap 18.
A lap later Jamie Whincup's race came to an abrupt end when he fired his Red Bull Holden into the Turn 6 wall with a rare unforced error.
The resulting Safety Car forced the first round of stops to shake out, Coulthard leading Waters with the lapped McLaughlin between them.
Waters swiftly cleared McLaughlin after the Lap 26 restart, before passing Coulthard for the lead as conditions started to worsen on Lap 30.
At the end of that lap most of the field, including the leaders, finally made the switch to wets.
That handed the lead to Anton De Pasquale, who had taken a gamble on grooved rubber during the Safety Car period.
However needing to stop again for fuel, the real fight was between Waters, van Gisbergen and Coulthard, all of which had satisfied the fuel drop requirements.
Initially Waters was the effective leader, but a Lap 36 excursion down the Turn 2 escape road allowed van Gisbergen and Coulthard through and made it a two-horse race.
As the 200-kilometre hit-out neared the 50-lap mark van Gisbergen started to pull away, giving himself a 2s buffer as they each battled with an out-of-sync Chaz Mostert.
The race's final twist started with nine laps to go, a Safety Car to retrieve Garry Jacobson's stranded Nissan sparking a late round of stops for those still needing fuel.
That led to a spectacular fire in pitlane when a BJR fuel rig failed while filling Nick Percat's Holden, the hot car igniting spilled fuel as it came of the jacks.
That meant two spectacular fires in pitlane, one at the bay itself and one out the back of Percat's car, which he'd stopped at pit exit.
The drama meant the race couldn't be started before the time certain finish cut-off, giving van Gisbergen a win ahead of Coulthard and Waters.
De Pasquale came home fourth, Mostert was fifth and Rick Kelly was sixth.
Through all the drama Garry Rogers Motorsport ended up with two cars in the Top 10, James Golding with a career-best seventh and super sub Michael Caruso in ninth. Former GRM driver Lee Holdsworth split the pair, while Simona de Silvestro finished 10th.
McLaughlin continues to lead Coulthard in the standings, the gap between the two Penske drivers 292 points.
|1|| Shane van Gisbergen ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'33.2942|
|2|| Fabian Coulthard ||Ford Mustang GT||1:37'34.0784|
|3|| Cameron Waters ||Ford Mustang GT||1:37'34.7384|
|4|| Anton De Pasquale ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'35.3391|
|5|| Chaz Mostert ||Ford Mustang GT||1:37'36.1045|
|6|| Rick Kelly ||Nissan Altima||1:37'37.5622|
|7|| James Golding ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'37.9763|
|8|| Lee Holdsworth ||Ford Mustang GT||1:37'38.6355|
|9|| Michael Caruso ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'40.5281|
|10|| Simona de Silvestro ||Nissan Altima||1:37'42.7599|
|11|| Scott McLaughlin ||Ford Mustang GT||1:37'43.5358|
|12|| Tim Slade ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'57.5545|
|13|| James Courtney ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'36.7124|
|14|| Jack Le Brocq ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'40.3533|
|15|| Andre Heimgartner ||Nissan Altima||1:37'41.7466|
|16|| Scott Pye ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'44.7924|
|17|| Todd Hazelwood ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'47.1332|
|18|| Macauley Jones ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'49.9174|
|19|| Nick Percat ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:38'08.6979|
|20|| David Reynolds ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'46.0743|
|21|| Will Davison ||Ford Mustang GT||1:37'49.3180|
| Garry Jacobson ||Nissan Altima||1:28'18.0749|
| Mark Winterbottom ||Holden Commodore ZB||1:37'51.3585|
| Jamie Whincup ||Holden Commodore ZB||24'21.7870|
|View full results|
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McLaughlin, Reynolds square off in heated post-race exchanges