SVG wins to keep status quo in Supercars title fight
IT'S status quo at the top of the Supercars title battle after the Ipswich SuperSprint, Shane van Gisbergen heading Scott McLaughlin home in Race 20.
The Kiwi duo, who are in the reverse positions at the top of the standings, battled throughout the race before van Gisbergen prevailed in the closing laps.
Joining them on the podium was Chaz Mostert, who ended a dire run for Tickford Racing to given them their first podium finish of the 2018 season.
Van Gisbergen repeated his hair trigger start from the day before, arriving at Turn 1 several carlengths ahead of McLaughlin.
All the action was behind them. Richie Stanaway was edged out onto the grass on the exit of Turn 2, dropping him outside the top 10.
The next bit of carnage came two corners later. Mark Winterbottom's dire weekend continued when he was tipped into a spin by James Courtney, both cars heading to the garage with suspension damage.
Courtney in particular felt aggrieved: he's been nerfed by his teammate.
"I don't know what Scott (Pye) was thinking," he said.
"Just pushed into the back of me and then me into Winterbottom. Very silly thing to do first lap with your teammate in a 200km race.
"That's for the boys to sort out and see what he was doing."
Percat toured the gravel at Turn 1 on Lap 2, losing a lap in the pits to repair damage from a punctured tyre. Stewards looked into contact between he and Anton De Pasquale but took no further action.
The race steadied at that point; SVG holding a slender lead over McLaughlin, while Mostert was glued to the Shell Ford's rear bumper.
The first round of stops began on Lap 12, McLaughlin, Mostert and Lowndes all heading to the lane.
The Red Bulls waited some nine laps to follow suit, van Gisbergen returning to the track in fourth behind McLaughlin, Mostert and Fabian Coulthard.
Van Gisbergen managed to peg back two of those spots before the second round of stops began, neither Coulthard nor Mostert putting up a fight.
By the time McLaughlin made his second stop, his margin over van Gisbergen was just three seconds - and the Red Bull Holden needed to take on five seconds less fuel at its stop.
The No.97 made its final stop earlier than planned - just two laps after McLaughlin, rather than the seven or eight planned - but the result was as expected: SVG emerged in the lead, 1.5s ahead of his title rival.
The leaders managed their tyres across the final stint, van Gisbergen letting the two Fords close right in as he saved his rubber for the final 10-lap sprint to the flag.
Mostert couldn't stick with the two Kiwis when they put the hammer down, setting up a head-to-head battle between the two front row men.
Steadily, the daylight between the leading Holden and Ford increased until suddenly McLaughlin was over two seconds adrift. Game over, but not the end of the world. Instead of gaining or losing, the points gap between them would end the weekend the same as it started.
As the chequered flag waved, van Gisbergen held a 2.3s margin over McLaughlin.
The battle for third went down to the wire, Mostert only barely denying Whincup and his fresher rubber a podium for the second day in a row, with Coulthard rounding out the top five.
Next were Tim Slade and David Reynolds, who were both on the charge in Race 20. The former gained 13 spots from his grid position to be sixth and closing on Coulthard in the waning laps, with the Erebus car, last of all to pit with 20 laps to go, right on his tail.
Craig Lowndes' final Supercars race at at Queensland Raceway ended in eighth place, with Rick Kelly and Jack Le Brocq rounding out the top 10.
Garth Tander finished where he started in 11th ahead of Will Davison, with Michael Caruso, Andre Heimgartner, Cam Waters, James Golding, De Pasquale, Stanaway, Pye and Lee Holdsworth making up the top 20.
Simona De Silvestro, Tim Blanchard and Kurt Kostecki were the last cars on the lead lap, the latter tangling mid-race in an incident that earnt the wildcard racer a 15-second time penalty.
The delayed Percat and Winterbottom were next, one and four laps down respectively, while Courtney briefly returned to the track before retiring for good at mid-distance.