Clipsal 500

vangisbergen_podiumThe Clipsal 500 is not just the opening round of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship season but one of the major standalone rounds of the Supercars season.

It can be launching pad to the season, or an early momentum burner that a driver and team can struggle to come back from.

Also for the less fancied teams it can also be an opportunity to grab a important early result, as the big boys of the grid are not always at the top of their game from the get go.

The Saturday Top 10 shootout and the first race provided a bit of all of that. At first blush it may appear to be more of the same with reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen and the #97 Red Bull Holding Racing Team Commodore taking the pole and the win.

Behind him though was the Ford Falcon of Fabian Coulthard as the made his debut for Shell V-Power DJR Penske and James Courtney and his commodore rounded out the podium for the newly branded Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

There was the usual collection of hard luck stories up and down pit lane but many felt David Reynolds and Erebus Motorsport were perhaps the most unfortunate of the day.

Having qualified his Penrite Commodore tenth, he ran as high as fifth in the race. However his hard work was undone when he was forced to serve a drive through penalty for kerb hopping at turn two.

This left many perplexed, including Reynolds who noted post race “
We had a massive drama with getting a drive-through penalty from too many kerb hops, which was very disappointing, especially after being told drivers would no longer receive the penalty unless it was something horrible because it ruins your day, and it ruined our day today.”

In addition to the seeming confusing pre race message from the stewards many also felt a drive through was simply too high a price for such an indiscretion.

The other big talking point from the race was the on track clash between the
Red Bull Holding Racing Team Commodore of Jamie Whincup and The Prodrive Bottle-O Falcon of Mark Winterbottom.

Whincup had attempted a pass on the inside at turn 5 on lap 45 and with Winterbottom turning in over him, the Falcon driver was spun from the contact.

Stewards deliberated post race on the clash, which as you would expect both drivers had differing views of, and decided that no one driver was responsible and therefore applied no penalties.

It was a fairly uneventful solo series debut for Simona De Silvestro in the Nissan Motorsport Harvey Norman Nissan Altima who completed her first race in position 20.

“It was good, I think practice was ok, but in qualifying I think was pretty tough getting a lap together. I wish it would have been in the (one minute) twenties lap time wise, but it was a good session to get under our belt, and I think we can improve from there for the next one. I like the track, actually I think the track is cool, but it’s more a matter of me learning the car so much, and every lap I’m picking up a little bit more. It’s very interesting, but I’m enjoying myself, and we will keep working at it.”

The other debut driver was Alex Rullo, who as a 16 year old is the youngest driver to start a Supercars race. He finished his first race in 23rd place one ahead of his Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport teammate Taz Douglas.

So onto the Sunday race, where once again van Gisbergen ruled the day. He was fastest in Qualifying, took pole in the top 10 shootout and posted a clean sweep of the weekend with another win.

However whilst that on paper looks like another easy day at the office it was anything but and he was seriously challenged by this time Scott McLaughlin in the DJR Team Penske Falcon.

In fact McLaughlin looked likely to take the win until a late braking error presented van Gisbergen with the gift wrapped passing opportunity with just five laps to go.

In a strong showing for the remaining Ford runners the podium was rounded out by Chaz Mostert in his Supercheap Auto Racing Falcon for Prodrive racing.

As you would expect van Gisbergergen was very happy with his weekend

"What a huge weekend, we all worked so hard. It's a great start to the year, everyone has pushed through the off-season and everyone really deserves this result. 

“It was a hard race, I had some fun battles. I struggled at the start, lost some time, it was all happening. Coming into the weekend we had a fair few unknowns, but it's great to know that we know how the car performs, we know the car is fast. 

“We cracked the big 300 podiums for Triple Eight today as well, which is an awesome milestone for the team. We can really head into the season knowing we gave the opener our all."

For his part McLaughlin was left to rue missing out on giving his team a win in his first outing for them.

“It’s a bit of a sinking feeling I guess,” he said. 

“In some ways I’m absolutely ecstatic in regards to how the team has gone, for Shell V-Power Racing it has been a fantastic weekend.

“I really thought today was probably the day we could have got this first win. 

“There’s a lot of promise there and I’m kicking myself, but at the end of the day it is what it is.

“I’m not confident with the brake package at the moment and I’m getting used to that. 

“I just overstepped the mark and once you lock the rears you’re done."

In a rare occurrence for a race at Clipsal there was no safety car period and no real big talking points.

Perhaps the biggest was James Courtney spinning De Silverstro, as she braked to prepare for a pit entry and caught the Commodore driver out.

Stewards later cleared Courtney of any wrongdoing.

That left him with a fourth from this race and following up his third on Saturday, it was a solid opening weekend for the Walkinshaw outfit as it settles into life post their factory team status.

One driver leaving Adelaide shaking his head is likely six time Champion Jamie Whincup. Whilst his teammate was sweeping all before him, Whincup never really seemed on the pace.

“Tough day, it started with the mistake I made in the Shootout. We fought hard, I’m pretty proud of what everyone’s done, we just can’t take a trick with the strategy.

“We put a heap of petrol in and really relied on a safety car. Who would have thought there would be no safety car in 250 kilometres!

“All in all, we had good car speed. Massive congratulations to SVG (Shane van Gisbergen), awesome team result. I just wish car #88 had contributed more than it did.”

With his clean sweep it was a perfect start for van Gisbergen and he leaves Adelaide with a 51 point Championship lead.

Championship Standings
1 van Gisbergen 300 Points
2 Coulthard 249
3 Courtney 249
4 Mostert 213
5 Waters 210
6 Whincup 204
7 McLaughlin 192
8 Lowndes 168
9 R Kelly 165
10 Slade 159