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Townsville Supercars: Van Gisbergen prevails in fireball thriller

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Townsville Supercars: Van Gisbergen prevails in fireball thriller
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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. 

Race results:

Cla Driver Car Time
1 New Zealand Shane van Gisbergen
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'33.2942
2 New Zealand Fabian Coulthard
Ford Mustang GT 1:37'34.0784
3 Australia Cameron Waters
Ford Mustang GT 1:37'34.7384
4 Australia Anton De Pasquale
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'35.3391
5 Australia Chaz Mostert
Ford Mustang GT 1:37'36.1045
6 Australia Rick Kelly
Nissan Altima 1:37'37.5622
7 Australia James Golding
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'37.9763
8 Australia Lee Holdsworth
Ford Mustang GT 1:37'38.6355
9 Australia Michael Caruso
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'40.5281
10 Switzerland Simona de Silvestro
Nissan Altima 1:37'42.7599
11 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin
Ford Mustang GT 1:37'43.5358
12 Australia Tim Slade
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'57.5545
13 Australia James Courtney
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'36.7124
14 Australia Jack Le Brocq
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'40.3533
15 New Zealand Andre Heimgartner
Nissan Altima 1:37'41.7466
16 Australia Scott Pye
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'44.7924
17 Australia Todd Hazelwood
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'47.1332
18 Australia Macauley Jones
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'49.9174
19 Australia Nick Percat
Holden Commodore ZB 1:38'08.6979
20 Australia David Reynolds
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'46.0743
21 Australia Will Davison
Ford Mustang GT 1:37'49.3180
Australia Garry Jacobson
Nissan Altima 1:28'18.0749
Australia Mark Winterbottom
Holden Commodore ZB 1:37'51.3585
Australia Jamie Whincup
Holden Commodore ZB 24'21.7870
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About this article

Series Supercars
Event Townsville
Author Andrew van Leeuwen