24 Oct 2016

Kiwi could seal Supercars title at home

7:56 am on 24 October 2016

New Zealand's Shane van Gisbergen comes home to the Pukekohe round with a chance to become the first Kiwi in 20 years to win the Australian V8 Supercars Championship.

Shane van Gisbergen wins the opening race at the Gold Coast 600.

Shane van Gisbergen at the Gold Coast round. Photo: Supplied

The Red Bull Racing driver paired with Frenchman Alex Premat for a win on Saturday and brilliant runner-up spot last night at the Castrol Gold Coast 600.

Their performances mean they won the Pirtek Enduro Cup for the double-driver endurance races at Sandown where they were second; runners-up at Bathurst plus a win and second on the Gold Coast.

More importantly it means van Gisbergen will return to New Zealand for the Auckland SuperSprint in two weeks with an increased lead in the championship.

He has a 148 point buffer over teammate Jamie Whincup as they return to the single driver stops, with only Pukekohe and a final stop in Sydney to complete the season.

Shane van Gisbergen.

Shane van Gisbergen. Photo: Photosport

"It's pretty cool but we did that the hard way again today. I had to pass Mostert three times," said van Gisbergen, after he was ordered to redress after twice riding too aggressively over the curbs in his passing manoeuvres.

"Alex did a great job and saved so much fuel that we could do an extra lap and allowed me to push hard to the end. It's a great weekend with a first and a second and the Pirtek Cup so I am pretty stoked."

With 300 points available for each round for the winner, it is possible that van Gisbergen could seal the title on home turf at the spiritual home of New Zealand motorsport at the Pukekohe Park Raceway.

It proved a superb weekend for fellow New Zealander Scott McLaughlin who, with co-driver David Wall, pushed the Volvo to runner-up spot behind van Gisbergen on Saturday and third last night.

Van Gisbergen and McLaughlin took over the reins with both cars well back in the field but the young Kiwis produced remarkable charges through the field over the final 30 laps.

Van Gisbergen stormed through the pack to move within two seconds of leader Whincup with five laps remaining.

But after his third warning for lunging too far over the curbs and with a potential drive-through penalty for a further infringement, his pit crew advised that caution was the better part of valour.

He eased back to finish comfortably nine seconds behind.

McLaughlin produced an eye-catching display to buzz through the field after his team decided to stay out during an early safety car period.

While it pushed them back to mid-pack, they did not need to conserve fuel like the others freeing up McLaughlin for an aggressive stint behind the wheel.

He had a tense moment locking all four-wheels to edge past defending Supercars champion Mark Winterbottom and stay clear of the unforgiving walls of the street circuit to nab the third place.

With his tyres then all-but spent, he managed to hold off a late charge from Craig Lowndes to grab their second podium of the weekend, and move him up to fourth overall in the championship.

It was not such a good day for the other New Zealand main drivers.

Fabian Coulthard's DJR Team Penske Ford crew faced an all-night job to repair his car after he was taken out in a scary high-speed crash on Saturday.

He had to be content with 15th place today although it was a remarkable effort to get the car on the track and competitive today.

A passing error ended with a broken steering arm for Super Black Racing's Richie Stanaway early in the race meaning Chris Pither never got into the car, which was the same for Auckland's Andre Heimgartner in the Plus Fitness Holden.

Best of the New Zealand co-drivers was Steven Richards who partnered with Lowndes for fourth place.

Teams face a busy few days to prepare cars for the air freight shipment to Auckland for the Auckland SuperSprint on November 4-6.


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