For the first time in 50 years, a Supercars season began at the same track where the prior season concluded.
Bathurst. Mount Panorama – the most hallowed track in Australian motorsport. And just like last season’s finale, it was Shane van Gisbergen who emerged triumphant this weekend, claiming back-to-back victories the perfect start to his title bid.
Commentators declared it a “big, big statement” as the 31-year-old veteran chases his second Supercars crown, after winning in 2016.
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The NZ star in his Red Bull Racing Commodore started from pole position in Sunday’s race and – despite losing the lead by the first corner – fought back to cruise to victory in the second half of the race.
He said after arriving in victory lane: “That’s a team win, strategy win. Strategy was awesome.
He declared that the middle stint was some of the most fun – and the best time – he’s ever had in a racecar: “That middle stint was insane.”
“The car was magnificent” in that part of the race, he said.
Cameron Waters finished second – a fine rebound from a disappointing opening race where mechanical problems sent him from the lead to a 20th-place finish – ahead of Chaz Mostert, who backed up his second-place in the first race with another podium.
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After a chaotic season-opener on Saturday, Sunday’s second sprint race at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama delivered just as much drama, with James Courtney crashing out from seventh place in the 10th lap.
Courtney’s No. 44 Ford Mustang GT for Tickford Racing swiped the wall heavily on the way up the mountain, and though it limped back to the pits, his team confirmed that the car would require a full rebuild ahead of the next round of racing.
Cam Waters, who led from pole on Saturday only to suffer a power steering failure and finish 20th, nabbed the early lead in Sunday’s race after overtaking yesterday’s winner Shane van Gisbergen on the first corner of the race.
Mostert rose into third after passing DJR’s Anton de Pasquale coming into the Chase on the 14th lap, after de Pasquale – on colder tyres – went too narrow and onto the dirty track.
Waters then pitted at the end of the 15th with Van Gisbergen breathing down his neck. And while he emerged marginally in front of his rival, his cold tyres offered him no resistance as SVG immediately overtook for the lead and powered away with multiple fastest laps of the race in quick succession.
Fabian Coulthard was another to suffer rough luck at the halfway mark of the 40-lap race, being forced to pit in back-to-back laps after an issue engaging his fuel filler. That sent him to the back of the pack.
Brodie Kostecki tried to dive on the inside of David Reynolds at the Chase in the 21st lap, but failed to brake in time and sent himself soaring with all four wheels in the air, but saved himself before hitting the wall and regained the track without issue.
At the end of that lap, Van Gisbergen and Waters pitted for their second time, as did Mostert and de Pasquale, but that didn’t change their relative positions
The four runners ahead of them, who had only pitted once, all pitted in the next two laps to send Van Gisbergen, Waters, Mostert and de Pasquale back to the top.
De Pasquale’s teammate Will Davison, who had started from fourth, was in the fight at sixth behind Mark Winterbottom, but slipped up on the final corner of the track to hand a spot to good friend Jamie Whincup.
Things finished in that order, with Van Gisbergen leading home Waters by six seconds. Mostert, de Pasquale, Winterbottom, Whincup, Davison, Scott Pye, Andre Heimgartner and Nick Percat rounded out the top 10.
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It capped a disappointing weekend for reigning champions Shell V-Power Racing, who are fielding an all-new line-up this weekend after the departure of reigning three-time champion Scott McLaughlin to IndyCar in the USA.
De Pasquale, who crashed out just five laps into Saturday’s rice, could only manage to finish fourth despite starting third. Teammate Davison similarly failed to back up his podium finish in the first race by also going backwards, slumping to seventh.
Nevertheless, for Davison, who spent last year without a drive after 23Red Racing folded at the end of the 2019 campaign, one podium is a reasonable start.
“It was a long year watching on the couch last year and this feels really special,” Davison said after Saturday’s third-place finish.
Meanwhile Jack le Brocq finished in 19th after largely cruising home, but needed medical attention at the end of the race after suffering burns to the bottom of his foot.
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