For Shane van Gisbergen, it was worth the wait.
After enduring 22 frustrating races in 2020, the former Supercars champion not only finally claimed his maiden win for the year but went back to back at the Townsville SuperSprint on Sunday.
After dominating Sunday’s opening 39-lap race to win by more than eight seconds, van Gisbergen was arguably even more impressive in the Townsville round’s finale.
Starting at 12th on the grid, the Kiwi monstered through the field and took advantage of a safety car caused by Anton de Pasquale’s Holden hitting the wall at turn six with 10 laps left to claim line honours ahead of teammate Jamie Whincup and series leader Scott McLaughlin.
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In Sunday’s opening race, Holden gun van Gisbergen won ahead of Ford’s McLaughlin and Whincup respectively at the Reid Park street circuit.
It was a welcome change of luck for van Gisbergen whose season to date was summed up in the Townsville round’s opener on Saturday when he qualified second fastest and even led the race before ultimately failing to finish due to power steering issues.
“What an awesome race. I had a great car. The safety car worked out perfectly to ensure a big battle in the end,” said van Gisbergen of the final race.
MCLAUGHLIN KEPT HONEST IN TOWNSVILLE
For once not everything went Supercars superstar McLaughlin’s way on Sunday.
Two-time defending champion McLaughlin was once again the man to beat after winning the Townsville round’s opening 39-lap race on Saturday.
It marked his 10th win of the season and fifth in seven races.
But after van Gisbergen’s winning double, McLaughlin appears human after all with three rounds remaining after his second and third placings on Sunday, which cut his overall series lead over Whincup to 143 points.
He started from 10th in Sunday’s finale and moved to the lead thanks to an early lap seven pit stop but his old tyres ensured he was reeled in by Holden duo SVG and Whincup with four laps left.
“I had nothing left. I was trying my best. If we didn’t have the safety car we might have had a real good shot,” McLaughlin said.
The season continues with the first of back to back rounds at South Australia’s The Bend circuit from September 19-20.
BATTLERS SOUND WARNING IN NQ
The form guide was almost thrown out the window on Sunday after Supercars battlers Brad Jones Racing dominated qualifying.
The small Albury-based Holden outfit upstaged the big boys to be the toast of pit lane when first ex-Bathurst 1000 champion Nick Percat then teammate Todd Hazelwood emerged fastest in back-to-back qualifying sessions on Sunday morning.
It was the first career pole for both drivers.
To boot, Percat was second fastest behind Hazelwood in the second qualifier to mark BJR’s first front row lockout since Phillip Island in 2013.
In the end BJR couldn’t convert pace into podiums with Percat going the closest by finishing fourth in Sunday’s opening 39-lap race and Hazelwood coming sixth and his teammate seventh in Townsville’s finale.
Hazelwood had the best shot at victory when he was second in Sunday’s last race but was overrun by rivals on fresher tyres in a final 10-lap frenzy following the safety car.
“It was all going to plan until that safety car period. It kind of got away from us in the end,” Hazelwood said of the final race’s finish.
It was a remarkable turnaround for Hazelwood who stalled on the starting grid in Saturday’s opening race to be dead last on the first turn before fighting back to finish 12th.
WATERS FINDS TROUBLE IN TOWNSVILLE
No matter what happened this weekend, the Townsville Supersprint was always going to end in tears for Ford gun Cameron Waters’ Tickford Racing team.
There will be emotional scenes when the north Queensland round concludes with much of the Victorian-based team reuniting with loved ones on the Gold Coast on Monday.
Tickford Racing have been on the road since early July in a bid to keep the Supercars season rolling along during the coronavirus pandemic but will get a reprieve after family members completed a two week quarantine period in the Northern Territory and flew to Queensland.
But there will arguably also be tears of frustration after Waters was turned around in a top five battle when hit from behind by van Gisbergen in Sunday’s 39-lap finale.
Waters was cut off by Percat as the Holden driver suddenly turned into pit lane on lap 15 and then received a nudge from SVG, dropping from the top five and finally finishing 12th in Townsville’s third and final race.
It ended a promising run for Waters who had placed second in Saturday’s race and fifth in Sunday’s first 39-lap event.
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