Van Gisbergen wins maiden Championship

Shane van Gisbergen
Shane van Gisbergen

Shane van Gisbergen has overcome a disastrous start at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 to clinch his first ever Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

The Kiwi looked like he would have to wait at least one more day to seal the title after he was penalized following an incident with reigning Champion Mark Winterbottom early in today’s 250 kilometer race.

But van Gisbergen showed the sort of flair and fight that has been a hallmark of his racing during 2016 as he worked his way back to third place and wrap up the Championship.

Van Gisbergen started the day 191 points ahead of teammates Jamie Whincup. His third place today extends his lead over Whincup to an unassailable 170 points with just one race and 150 points remaining tomorrow.

Van Gisbergen is the first New Zealander to win the Championship since Jim Richards back in 1991.

His Red Bull Racing teammate Jamie Whincup took his seventh checkered flag for the year but it wasn’t enough for him to secure a seventh Championship. In his final event for the Holden Racing Team, Garth Tander finished second.

Scott McLaughlin finished fourth to edge his way past Craig Lowndes into third place in the Championship.

The Coates Hire Sydney 500 will finish tomorrow with the final 250 kilometer race at Sydney Olympic Park.

Shane van Gisbergen

"It's a pretty awesome feeling," the New Zealander said after finishing third in today's opening 250km race at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 to establish an unbridgeable points gap over Red Bull Racing Australia team-mate and race winner Jamie Whincup.

"Pretty awesome day to get back to third. To see my Dad and my Mum there and the team [at the finish], I was so stoked."

Van Gisbergen wins the championship in his ninth full-time season and his first driving a factory-backed Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore.

"It has been a pretty awesome few years in the series and I am finally champion of the sport, a lifetime goal achieved," he said.

The 27-year old is accompanied to virtually all his races by father Robert, while mother Karen was also at Sydney Olympic Park to see her son triumph. He embraced them both tearfully after the race.

"I owe everything to my family," van Gisbergen.

"My Dad is a racer himself. I am pretty critical of myself but he is even moreso.

"Even yesterday he was standing at a few points of the track and he came in and was saying ‘Jamie is doing this and he looks a bit better' and I'm like ‘I know I can see it on the data'.

"He has been a great influence and he has sacrificed a lot … they travel to most races now and to have them there and be one of the first people to see after this was a really cool moment.

"Dad had some tears in his eyes and it was pretty cool."

Van Gisbergen needed to finish fifth today to ensure he won the championship, but after a slow start, a botched pass of defending champion Mark Winterbottom and a pitlane drive-through penalty, he found himself in 22nd.

After qualifying on pole the usually-attacking van Gisbergen admitted he was too cautious off the start and in his attempt to pass Winterbottom.

"I was just too conservative [at the start] and got mucked around at one, I let everyone go and then got hit at two. So there was a bit of carnage and passing back through I just wasn't as assertive as I normally am.

"Normally I just throw it in and get it done. I just hesitated and it cost us.

"Once I was in that position there was nothing to lose and I just went crazy and hit everything except other people, so it was good."

Van Gisbergen benefited from a late safety car to charge forward from ninth on fresh tires. In the closing laps he had driven into fourth behind Holden Racing Team driver James Courtney, who repeatedly blocked his attempts to pass and claim the podium position.

Van Gisbergen was caught in a sandwich as Wilson Security GRM's Scott McLaughlin pressured him from behind.

The action became so frantic that van Gisbergen's engineer Grant McPherson advised him to drop behind McLaughlin, but he was loath to do so because it would hinder team-mate Craig Lowndes' fight with the Volvo S60 driver for third in the championship.

Eventually, Courtney outbraked himself at turn one and both van Gisbergen and McLaughlin were able to get by.

"I knew on brand new tires we would have good chance to come through," van Gisbergen said. "We just went easy for the first few laps and then started picking them off.

"I knew getting past Scotty would help Craig in the championship so I got in front of him but then James was so slow he couldn't get out of his own way.

"They told me to slow to save my spot but Scotty was attacking me, so I didn't really want to pass James but he kind of forced me to."

Coates Hire Sydney 500 Results

Pos Driver Team Make Started Laps Points
1 Jamie Whincup Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore VF 2 1 74 150
2 Garth Tander Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore VF 5 3 74 138
3 Shane van Gisbergen Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore VF 1 2 74 129
4 Scott McLaughlin Wilson Security Racing GRM Volvo S60 3 1 74 120
5 James Courtney Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore VF 6 1 74 111
6 Rick Kelly Sengled Motorsport Nissan Altima 9 3 74 102
7 Will Davison Team Darrell Lea STIX Holden Commodore VF 12 5 74 96
8 Craig Lowndes TeamVortex Holden Commodore VF 4 4 74 90
9 Tim Slade Freightliner Racing Holden Commodore VF 15 6 74 84
10 David Reynolds Erebus Motorsport Penrite Holden Commodore VF 26 16 74 78
11 Fabian Coulthard DJR Team Penske Ford Falcon FG/X 11 0 74 72
12 Todd Kelly carsales Racing Nissan Altima 19 7 74 69
13 Michael Caruso Nissan Motorsport Nissan Altima 14 1 74 66
14 Scott Pye DJR Team Penske Ford Falcon FG/X 18 4 74 63
15 Nick Percat Repair Management Aust Racing Holden Commodore VF 13 2 74 60
16 Lee Holdsworth Preston Hire Racing Holden Commodore VF 22 6 74 57
17 Chaz Mostert Supercheap Auto Racing Ford Falcon FG/X 8 9 74 54
18 Jason Bright Team BOC Holden Commodore VF 17 1 74 51
19 Tim Blanchard Team Cooldrive Holden Commodore VF 24 5 74 48
20 Andre Heimgartner Plus Fitness Racing Holden Commodore VF 23 3 74 45
21 Cameron Waters Monster Energy Racing Ford Falcon FG/X 10 11 74 42
22 Shae Davies Erebus Motorsport Holden Commodore VF 25 3 71 39
23 Mark Winterbottom The Bottle-O Racing Team Ford Falcon FG/X 7 16 69 36
24 James Moffat Wilson Security Racing GRM Volvo S60 16 8 65 33
DNF Dale Wood GB Galvanizing Racing Nissan Altima 21 4 48 0
DNF Chris Pither Super Black Racing Ford Falcon FG/X 20 6 1 0

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