ADELAIDE, South Australia, Australia — After posting the fastest time by one-ten-thousandth of a second in the first round of qualifying, then grabbing the pole by 0.044 seconds in the Armor All Shootout, Shane van Gisbergen continued his domination of the Clipsal 500 weekend by claiming the first of two 250-kilometer races on Saturday.
The defending series champion drove away from Shell V-Power Racing Team’s Fabian Coulthard in the final green-flag run to win the opening race of 2017 for the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship. In the process, van Gisbergen claimed the 20th victory of his career and the first for the newly-renamed Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
“What a great first day as the Red Bull Holden Racing Team,” Van Gisbergen said. “It was an awesome race, very tough at the start, but we pushed on at the end with the correct strategy. Hopefully we can do it again tomorrow.”
The day was hot and sunny, and though Van Gisbergen got the lead from the start, Coulthard got him going into the fearsome Turn 8 hairpin by going down the inside. While Coulthard was busy taking the lead on the first lap, there was trouble taking place behind him. Will Davison found the outside wall, as he combined with Todd Kelly’s carsales Racing Nissan and James Moffat’s Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden to go three-wide through turn eight. The TEKNO Autosports Holden became the race’s first casualty, though no Safety Car came out.
Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver Jamie Whincup was the first car to pit, doing so on lap one. By lap eight, Scott McLaughlin and Jason Bright had pitted too. Coulthard saw his lead over van Gisbergen diminish in the first segment, but hung on to it when he pitted on lap 17 along with James Courtney in the Mobil 1 HSV Racing Holden.
Tim Slade stuffed his Holden into the Turn 6 tire wall on lap 20, and one of the fenders from Slade’s damaged car ripped itself off down the middle of the Wakefield Straight and brought out the Safety Car on the very next lap. The Safety Car would have an adverse effect on McLaughlin’s race, as he was penalized for weaving after the lights went out on the Safety Car. The penalty dropped him to 24th place.
Shell V-Power Racing Team manager Ryan Story said he was disappointed in the call, and did not know how it would affect McLaughlin. The No. 17 would eventually finish 17th.
Coulthard would resume the race from the lead and would continue to hold the No. 1 position until lap 43, when he and van Gisbergen both came down pit road and swapped places.
Two laps later, the most controversial moment of the race came as Whincup tagged Winterbottom’s left rear on the exit of Turn 4, sending Winterbottom’s Bottle-O Racing Ford Falcon into a 360-degree spin. Race officials investigated the incident in-race before deciding to delay any decision on it until afterward, which drew the ire of those in the Bottle-O Racing paddock.
“They’ve obviously done a lot of work on the judicial system and it’s a good test case for them to work through,” said Bottle-O Racing Team Manager Tim Edwards in reference to the revised judicial system that Supercars has implemented for the 2017 season.
Van Gisbergen was flying through the second half of the race, and on lap 52, he broke the in-race lap record at the Adelaide Street Circuit with a 1:20.965. van Gisbergen’s laps weren’t the only thing in Adelaide that was hot, as Taz Douglas came into the garage on lap with a failure of his cool suit. The crew reported to media that Douglas was so overheated that he was speaking gibberish when he came in for his pit stop. This prompted Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport to bring his car into the garage to rehydrate Douglas and repair the cool suit system. He would return to the race 14 laps later.
Curb cutting was a major problem in the race, as Winterbottom, Whincup, Lowndes, McLaughlin, Todd Kelly Nick Percat, Chaz Mostert, and Alex Rullo were all handed the bad sportsmanship flag for striking the curb twice. David Reynolds, however, was given a pit lane penalty for his third curb strike on lap 68, a move which angered his Erebus Racing crew.
Back up front, van Gisbergen was giving it his all, and though he slowed up a bit towards the end, he won by nearly 14 seconds over Coulthard. James Courtney rounded out the podium, followed by Cameron Waters, who drove a strong race to finish fourth in his Monster Energy Ford Falcon.
The Clipsal 500 Adelaide concludes with Race 2 on Sunday afternoon. The green flag is set for 3:20 p.m. local time (11:50 p.m. EST on Saturday).