Van Gisbergen wins a thriller over McLaughlin in Pukekohe

Van Gisbergen leads McLaughlin
Van Gisbergen leads McLaughlin

The almighty battle between Kiwis Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen continued with another classic battle at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint in their home patch.

Van Gisbergen crossed the line first but a five-second penalty for whacking into the rear of McLaughlin made the lead a lot skinner in the closing laps. Van Gisbergen was under five seconds ahead with four laps to go, needing to win by five seconds or more.

Both drivers went hell for leather in the closing laps, one needing more than the five seconds, the other needing to keep it under the same mark. In the end just half a second gave Van Gisbergen the win, also cutting McLaughlin’s Championship lead to just two points.

Chaz Mostert was third in the Supercheap Auto Racing Falcon, backing up his Saturday win on the Gold Coast a fortnight ago with another strong result.

“That was one of the coolest races I have ever had. Hopefully we can put on a good show tomorrow and a Kiwi 1-2," Van Gisbergen said. “It was good respect in those last couple of corners, side by side. I was very cool, great fun."

McLaughlin succumbed in a fierce passing battle with 11 laps to go after Van Gisbergen, on a later pit stop strategy, mowed him down on fresher tires.

“It was pretty full on, we raced hard from the start," McLaughlin said.

Start
Start

“We went side by side there for a while but there was plenty of respect. We gave it a shot on strategy, hopefully Ford fans can come back tomorrow and give these Opals a run."

It was the second critical call of the race with another being decided post-race. Van Gisbergen appeared to spin his rear wheels before being dropped to the ground during his second stop which resulted in an investigation.

If found guilty the offence results in a mandatory pit lane drive through penalty.

The huge Kiwi crowd stood to their feet for the start with McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen side by side on the front row. McLaughlin got the early jump despite heavy pressure from Van Gisbergen in the first two laps with the former Champion keen to stay in his mirrors.

McLaughlin’s team-mate Fabian Coulthard had a big crash for the second year in a row at Pukekohe when clipped by Lee Holdsworth in the Preston Hire Commodore having been nudged by Richie Stanaway’s Falcon.

Coulthard was a complete passenger when he slammed sideways into on wall then spun across the track straight into another. The crash prompted a safety car with most diving into the pits for their first stop, as dark clouds closed in from the west.

“Saturday’s at Pukekohe aren’t my thing," Coulthard said. “Same series of corners as last year."

The battle between McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen heated up when James Courtney short stopped in the Boost Mobile Commodore to take over. McLaughlin pitted next leaving Van Gisbergen behind Courtney who proved a thorn in his side until he got around on lap 21.

McLaughlin, meanwhile, was out in clear air trying to build enough of a gap to get Van Gisbergen in the pits. The Red Bull Holden team left Van Gisbergen out, seemingly waiting to see what the weather was going to bring.

Van Gisbergen eventually came in on lap 44 for tires and fuel but came out behind McLaughlin but with fresh rubber to burn in the back half of the race. It proved critical in the end with Van Gisbergen able to nullify the five second penalty with pure speed.

On the podium
On the podium

Behind the top three, David Reynolds finished fourth ahead of Jamie Whincup, Scott Pye, Cam Waters, Nick Percat, James Courtney and Michael Caruso. Craig Lowndes fought back to finish 11th after being turned in the opening lap.

McLaughlin's teammate Fabian Coulthard walked away from a high speed crash which triggered the first Vodafone Safety Car of the day, 12 months after flipping and rolling his Falcon at a similar spot.

Teams now turn their attention to tomorrow's crucial final race of the event. There will be a round of ARMOR ALL Qualifying in the morning followed by an ARMOR ALL Top Ten Shootout.

Results

POS # DRIVER TEAM TIME POINTS
1 97 Van Gisbergen Red Bull Holden Racing Australia 1:22:38.101 150
2 17 McLaughlin Shell V-Power Racing Team +0.512 138
3 55 Mostert Supercheap Auto Racing +5.634 129
4 9 Reynolds Erebus Motorsport +13.430 120
5 1 Whincup Red Bull Holden Racing Australia +13.787 111
6 2 S. Pye Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing +21.452 102
7 6 C. Waters Monster Energy Racing +22.428 96
8 8 Percat Brad Jones Racing +23.090 90
9 25 Courtney Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing +25.622 84
10 23 Caruso Nissan Nismo +26.981 78
11 888 Lowndes Team Vortex +28.197 72
12 21 Blanchard CoolDrive Racing +32.358 69
13 5 Winterbottom The Bottle-O Racing Team +35.291 66
14 34 J. Golding Wilson Security Racing GRM +38.022 63
15 18 Holdsworth Preston Hire Racing +38.704 60
16 15 R. Kelly Nissan Motorsport +39.246 57
17 14 Slade Brad Jones Racing +39.539 54
18 7 Heimgartner Nissan Motorsport +40.945 51
19 99 A. de Pasquale Erebus Motorsport +46.954 48
20 230 Davison Milwaukee Racing +49.919 45
21 78 S. De Silvestro Nissan Nismo +50.821 42
22 19 J. Le Brocq TEKNO Woodstock Racing +1:02.057 39
23 56 R. Stanaway Tickford Racing +1 Lap 36
24 35 T. Hazelwood Bigmate Racing +2 Laps 33
25 33 Tander Wilson Security Racing GRM +11 Laps 30
NC 12 Coulthard Shell V-Power Racing Team +64 Laps 0

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