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Race 13: View From The Couch

The gamblers broke the bank and cashed-in on the podium as Supercars racing resumed in a chaotic contest in Darwin.

Going for soft Dunlop tyres paid off for Anton de Pasquale, James Courtney and Scott Pye, who used an unbeatable pace advantage in a shortened sprint at Hidden Valley.

They were helped by errors that punted Scott McLaughlin, Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen back down the order, but their double-runs on soft slicks was the right call despite hot weather and a series of prangs in the Top End.

De Pasquale’s victory is his first in Supercars, making him the 80th winner in the history of the touring car championship, although he admits he sacrificed his Sunday for a shot at the top.

“For the racing tomorrow, I’m pretty much screwed,” he reports.

“But that’s ok when you have a win. It’s been awesome.”

Courtney finally got back to the front of the pack with a pacy drive, even suckering McLaughlin into his time penalty when he slowed on a re-start and his rival hit the line just a bumper too early, as he led home his former WAU team mate and rival as Pye emerged late in the race as a serious threat.

“The re-starts were nuts. And it was a long way to manage the tyres,” says Courtney.

De Pasquale proved his pedigree as he stormed to an early lead, held off a series of challengers, and even scraped his Penrite Commodore down the pitlane armco in a joust that cost Jamie Whincup a 15-second penalty and dropped him to 17th.

“He was into me, I was into the fence, and my steering was bent a little bit. It was pretty chaotic,” says de Pasquale.

The second of the Bulls, Shane van Gisbergen, recovered to 11th after serving an early drive-through penalty for triggering a crash that took Nick Percat out of the race as team manager Mark Dutton put his hand up for the Whincup penalty.

“All on me. I shouldn’t have stuffed up, I should have done better,” says Dutton, who was responsible for the unsafe release after a tyre stop.

The first of the Darwin triple-header was action packed from the opening lap, when Jack Smith out-braked himself on the run out of the pits, to own-goal errors by Whincup and Courtney that put them both into the barriers. The Boost Mustang was a quick fix but even Whincup picked up the tools to get his Bull-mobile ready for qualifying.

No-one was surprised when Scott McLaughlin qualified on pole position, helped by SvG running out of fresh hard-compound tyres, but Mark Winterbottom was the surprise in fourth. He was eventually the best of the hard-tyre runners in fourth, although even Chris Pither was able to challenge late in the race using soft tyres on his Coca-Cola Commodore.

The race produced a series of rubbing-is-racing contacts and a few big hits, triggering two safety cars, on a day when the Supercars aces looked like naughty kids on the first day back at school.

Even so, it was highly entertaining and points to even more action through the two remaining mixed-tyre contests at Hidden Valley, before the resumption of all-soft action in Darwin2, despite being cut four laps short to make the broadcast cut-off time.

“Honestly, it was some of the most fun I’ve had racing a car for a lot of years. Awesome,” says Pye, speaking for many of the drivers.

RACE 13 – 34 laps
Result

1Anton de Pasquale
2James Courtney
3Scott Pye
4Mark Winterbottom
5Chris Pither
6Fabian Coulthard
7Chaz Mostert
8Cam Waters
9Andre Heimgartner
10Lee Holdsworth

Series points – Drivers

1 McLaughlin832
2 Whincup731
3 Mostert674
4 Waters629
5 Reynolds606
6 Winterbottom594
7 van Gisbergen587
8 Holdsworth587
9 Percat569
10 Coulthard522

Series points – Teams

1 Shell V-Power1354
2 Red Bull HRT1318
3 Tickford Racing1204
4 Penrite Racing1101
5 Tickford Racing1095

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