A Sunday sweep made Shane van Gisbergen the king of Hidden Valley as he lifted the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown for 2021.
His eighth win from 14 starts this year for Red Bull Ampol racing was as simple as beating Will Davison away from the grid – as he had done in the first Sunday sprint – and then managing the opposition from the front.
Davison was solid in second for Shell V-Power Racing while Jamie Whincup, who was muscled down the order on the opening lap, drove a great recovery to fill the final place on the podium.
Anton De Pasquale ran in the battle pack in the early laps but stalled during his pitstop – one of a surprising number of errors by the two benchmark teams in Darwin – and didn’t even make it back to the Top 10.
First-race winner Chaz Mostert was fourth after a lacklustre qualifying run, while James Courtney proved there is still fight in the old dog by picking up fifth.
But Van Gisbergen made things look easy all through Sunday in Darwin, as the Top End crowd swell to 38,000 for the weekend, and he was so confident he spent most of the last lap drifting sideways to entertain the fans.
“Awesome. Stoked,” SvG said.
“I don’t know what’s happened this weekend, I got three beauties. Just fluked it three times,” he said.
Van Gisbergen was deeply unhappy as he battled brake troubles and a wobbly front splitter during Friday practice, then had a disastrous pitstop on Saturday when the left-rear wheel jammed, but said everything turned around for Sunday.
“Right from this morning you could tell there was an increased presence in the garage – we were hungrier than ever after some not-so-good results yesterday. Everyone just wanted to have a good day.
“We had our problems fixed from yesterday, and everyone was super focused. Right from the team briefing this morning, we made good calls on the car, which really helped us all day.
“We didn’t quite have the speed of Will (Davison) in qualifying, but I knew our car would be good during the race.”
The end result is he now has a 221-point lead in the championship and his nearest pursuer is his team mate, with Mostert up to third.
For Davison, who had two poles and no wins on Sunday, the final race was a disappointment.
“Kicking myself. A little annoyed with myself, but a solid day,” he said.
“I just haven’t got it together when it counted.”
Whincup, too, was unhappy at the end of Race 3.
“I was fuming after the start. I got absolutely clean up at Turn One,” he said.
(But) I had a good car. Once we got to third we just had to hang on.”
Mostert was strong but never threatened to repeat his Saturday success after qualifying too far back.
“We’ve just got to qualify better. That last one was really tough,” he said.
“I’m happy to hang up the helmet for the weekend. Mentally cooked.”
Further back, Nick Percat completed a solid weekend with sixth place, Cam Waters was surprisingly quiet for ninth and Will Brown made it to the Top 10.
DARWIN TRIPLE CROWN
Race 3 – 38 laps
|1||Shane van Gisbergen||Commodore|
- Van Gisbergen, 1361 points; 2. Whincup, 1140; 3. Mostert, 1131, ; 4. Davison, 1087; 5. Waters, 1064; 6. Winterbottom, 861; 7. Percat, 827; 8. De Pasquale, 762; 9. Courtney, 744; 10. Brown, 741.