ADELAIDE, Australia — Shane van Gisbergen looked exactly like the Kiwi that steamrolled to the 2016 Supercars championship during the first leg of Saturday’s season-opening Adelaide 500, turning in a dominant run and cruising to victory.
Van Gisbergen won the ARMOR ALL Pole Award, but wasn’t deterred despite losing the lead on the initial start to Shell V-Power Racing Team rival Scott McLaughlin. He first cycled through to the lead on lap 15, amid the first round of pit stops, and remained largely in command from there.
A 10-lap stint from laps 30 to 39 — when James Courtney emerged as the leader after a short-filling strategy earlier in the race — was the only time that the Kiwi’s dominance was in any real doubt, but SvG’s strategy of waiting until his final pit stop with 35 to go to take on his smaller fill of fuel ultimately paid dividends.
Once van Gisbergen cycled through to the top spot on the 45th circuit, he never trailed again, despite three caution periods in the race’s second half.
In all, van Gisbergen led 44 of the 78 laps in the 250 kilometer race en route to his milestone 25th-career Supercars win, as well as the first win for the new Holden ZB Commodore in its maiden appearance.
“What an awesome day. The new Commodore is awesome; how about a one-two for the new car?” said van Gisbergen, who led the final 34 laps. “It was a really good race, and got really tight with Scott (McLaughlin) and James (Courtney). At the end there, I was just able to push. Hopefully tomorrow we can come and do it again.”
Oddly enough, it was van Gisbergen who lost his right-rear wheel well at turn four on lap 52, sparking the first of three safety car appearances. The field got going again three laps later, and Van Gisbergen held the lead from Courtney while mass chaos erupted behind them.
Cameron Waters was the first casualty, spinning after contact with Craig Lowndes at turn nine, while Fabian Coulthard copped major damage to his Shell V-Power Racing Ford at turn 12 before rookies James Golding, Todd Hazelwood and Richie Stanaway all came together in a three-car shunt at turn three that ended with Stanaway in the wall and the safety car on track again for Golding’s car.
Coulthard returned to the pits, but headed into the garage, his race over.
The race restarted on lap 59, and Van Gisbergen jumped out to a half-car-length lead over Courtney, but Tim Blanchard came to grief and socked the wall at turn eight to bring out the safety car for the third and final time.
Once racing resumed for good with 16 to go, van Gisbergen checked out on Courtney, running out to nearly a four-second lead before pacing the end of the stint and crossing the line 1.2224 seconds clear in the end.
Courtney’s runner-up finish marked his best result since 2016 at Townsville Street Circuit, when he also finished second, and marked a strong debut for his team under the new Walkinshaw Andretti United nameplate.
“It’s a great start to the campaign with Walkinshaw Andretti United, and to have Michael [Andretti] and everyone here is fantastic,” said Courtney. “I’m pumped. The car worked really, really well all day, Shane just had a little bit on us at the end there.”
McLaughlin completed the podium in third, followed by David Reynolds and Mark Winterbottom.
Five different teams — Red Bull Holden, Walkinshaw Andretti United, DJR Team Penske, Erebus Motorsport and Tickford Racing — were represented in Saturday’s top-five.
Defending and seven-time series champion Jamie Whincup had a quiet day in the opener to finish sixth.
Full race results can be viewed by clicking here…