There was a race of two halves on Saturday afternoon at The Bend, as the Mustangs from Shell V-Power and the Commodores of the Red Bull HRT were tangled in two very different contests.
As Scott McLaughlin completed a regulation win from pole position despite inevitable pressure from Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard was able to hold Jamie Whincup back to a lacklustre 10th place.
The bottom line is that McLaughlin now has a 263-point lead in the championship, as the DJR Team Penske Mustangs also continue to top the team’s championship standings.
“You’re never going to win from 14th,” Whincup said before the start of the shortened 31-lap contest, and he was right.
“It was a bit of a snoozer, actually, just following,” said SvG, who used fresher Dunlop tyres from a later stop to close on McLaughlin, without getting close enough to lunge for the lead.
“I caught Scotty – he was just too good. I couldn’t even get close enough to have a lunge.”
Not surprisingly, McLaughlin and Coulthard saw things differently.
“Overall, really happy,” said the winner.
“Shane was coming at me pretty hard there, but I tried to leave a little in the bank. That plan worked for me.”
“We had a good race. It was a good battle with Jamie,” said Coulthard.
There was surprisingly little contact or aggression on the shorter sprint course at The Bend, although Rick Kelly was one of the victims.
Jack Le Brocq was also punished after an excellent start, dropping out of the podium places after a brief engine problem. At least it was his Tickford team mate, Cam Waters, who benefitted as he moved up to third after starting from P2 on the grid.
“I got a shocking start,” Waters confessed. “At least the race-car was pretty solid.”
The split between the two top teams was reflected in tactics, as the two Shell Mustangs stopped early – although McLaughlin was covering Le Brocq in the early laps – while the Bulls went long and tried to use fresher rubber to advance.
Nick Percat definitely benefitted from a late stop as he moved past James Courtney for sixth.
Teams are already planning revised tactics for the two final sprints of the season at The Bend on Sunday, although some drivers are more concerned about improving their qualifying to get a clearer shot at the front.
“Hopefully I can qualify better tomorrow,” said van Gisbergen.
Race 28: 31 laps
|2||Shane van Gisbergen|
|4||Jack Le Brocq|
|5||Anton de Pasquale|