There are 40 good reasons why Shane van Gisbergen is the early favourite for this year’s Repco Supercars Championship.
They are the 40 laps he raced at Bathurst in the first of twin double-headers at Mount Panorama, as he converted a solid third spot onto the starting grid into an easy win in his Red Bull Ampol Commodore.
Based on Bathurst, SvG might not even have to win the title, just cruise and collect as his rivals find ways to lose.
“Awesome fun,” were the words from van Gisbergen after the victory.
Cam Waters coulda-shoulda made it a race with his Monster Mustang from pole position, but power steering pump trouble took him out of contention within seconds of Anton de Pasquale’s silly smash in the third-placed Shell Mustang after just six laps.
So Chaz Mostert repeated his solid form in practice to roll home as runner-up, clocking the quickest lap in 2 minutes 06.3483 seconds along the way, while veteran Will Davison banked the points for third his his Shell Mustang.
Tim Slade was challenging for the podium and almost within striking distance of Davo until a late mistake, almost in sight of the flag, saw him shunt heavily in the CoolDrive Mustang on the run down the mountain at the same place where Mostert had his giant crash in 2015.
“We had a pretty speedy car. I just went to downshift in the wrong spot … and it’s gone two gears at once. So into the fence,” said Slade.
“I’m absolutely shattered for everyone in the team. It was a pretty massive hit.”
For SvG, going A-to-B at the start of the Supercars series proved the quality of his racing brain and the strength of his new engineering partnership with Jamie Whincup’s long-term pit boss, David Cauchi.
“What an awesome day. Chaz was obviously fast at the end but I wasn’t really pushing,” SvG said.
“Overall I’m pretty happy to start the year like that. We’ll see how we go tomorrow,” said Mostert, already looking for a Sunday comeback.
Davison reflected on his tough year on the couch in 2020, but also the start of his retribution.
“This feels really special. We’ll build on this,” he said.
“I’ll take this. Our goal is to be winning this year.”
Behind the top three, Bryce Fullwood was solid in fourth, Jack Le Brocq stayed out of trouble for fifth ahead of Jamie Whincup, who lost time in the pitstops, then James Courtney in a Boost Mustang that he twice took off the road at Skyline, and David Reynolds in his first Mustang run.
Cam Waters eventually got back into the race after repairs to his car, grabbing a few points with 21st place, while Scott Pye was 19th after suspension repairs from first-lap contact.
De Pasquale and Slade were the most disappointed racers on the day, particularly the new signing at Dick Johnson Racing.
“No good. Bad way to start the year. But we’ll come back tomorrow and have another crack,” said de Pasquale.
“I was just pushing a bit hard and made a mistake. In where none-one else goes and can’t bring it back. It wasn’t a big hit.”
His car will be repaired for the second leg of the Mount Panorama 500, but Slade is less likely to made the grid.
In the main supporting race at Bathurst, Broc Feeney began his time wearing the traditional 888 racing number with victory in the Super2 race for Triple Eight Race Engineering in a Commodore.
Pictures: Aaron Wishart