POV: Van Gisbergen wins, loses and then wins again in Newcastle

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POV: Van Gisbergen wins, loses and then wins again in Newcastle

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Richard Craill


12 Mar 2023

SHANE VAN GISBERGEN won, lost and then won again in a typically dramatic opening weekend of the Repco Supercars Championship at the Thrifty Newcastle 500.


The debut of the brand-new Gen 3 Supercars platform was a success for a vast majority of the sport as Mustang and Camaro launched into battle, rekindling an Australian Touring Car rivalry that dates back to the 1960s.


There were plenty of storylines across the weekend though for much of it the theme was ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same,’ as Shane van Gisbergen picked up where he left off as Champion at the VALO Adelaide 500 last December.


The Red Bull Ampol Racing driver dominated on his way to victory in race one of the championship on Saturday before race officials disqualified both he, and his teammate Broc Feeney, for a technical infringement relating to the placement of a driver cooling device in the cockpit of their Chevrolet Camaros.


Though the result is under appeal, it stripped van Gisbergen of the victory and left the fired-up driver charging through on Sunday in a bid to make up for the race-one removal.


Starting the race from fifth, a different pit strategy to late leader Chaz Mostert saw him hauling in the Walkinshaw Andretti United driver on fresher rubber late in the race, before the pair engaged in a fight for the lead with just a handful of laps remaining.


In what Mostert would dub a ‘cheeky’ move, van Gisbergen gave a bump-and-run to work his way past Mostert and grab a lead he would never lose to claim what is currently his 76th Supercars race win – pending the outcome of the appeal lodged over the race one disqualification.


Mostert fought hard and returned serve at the hairpin as he nurfed the back of the Camaro, but his older rubber meant that the fight was only going to go one way.


Still, Mostert’s solid weekend that included a pair of runner-up finishes has him leading the championship heading into the second event at the Australian Grand Prix later this month, while David Reynolds’ finished third in a strong performance for the Penrite Racing team.


It was opportunity lost for Tickford’s Cameron Waters, however, as the Monster Mustang driver failed to capitalise on his race one performance.


Mostert finished third on the road in race one on Saturday, however was handed the race victory when the two Red Bulls were disqualified.


He was running second in Sunday’s race and closing rapidly on leader Mostert when he clipped the wall on one of Newcastle’s tight corners, bending the steering on his Mustang and forcing him to a lengthy pit stop.


The result was that he finished 12th in Race 2, though he does sit third in the championship.


The Newcastle event was the first test for the new Gen 3 Supercars as Mustang and Camaro launched into competition for the first time in decades.


The new cars were impressively quick on the demanding street circuit and looked spectacular too.


They also proved a challenge, according to defending VALO Adelaide 500 winner Broc Feeney.


“The first race of the year is always going to be very tough. I’ve been working hard in the off season to try and prepare for this season, and these cars are certainly a handful,” he said following the opening race.


“Heat has been a factor in these cars, but luckily it cooled down quite a bit towards the end of the race. There’s a couple of sore spots on the body but we’ll rehydrate overnight and come back tomorrow.”


Cabin temperature was an issue for some drivers and not others and would ultimately prove the major talking point of the weekend given the Red Bull disqualification.


The lack of running prior to Newcastle also likely means the cars that arrive at the VALO Adelaide 500 this November will be very different under the skin than they are now.


With most teams only having three or four days of pre-season testing – and some less – it was an inexperienced field that arrived in Newcastle to learn the quirks of the new cars.


By the time they arrive in Adelaide, the field will have had 11 rounds of racing to learn about what the Gen 3 cars need to go quickly.


Street circuit events in Townsville and the Gold Coast will be key for Adelaide prep, as will places like Sandown – which returns to host a 500km race this year.


However despite the significant change the product remains familiar to Supercars fans with spectacular kerb-hopping, wall brushes and the return of exhaust flames – adding to the spectacle.


The competition was level throughout the field, despite familiar names rising to the top during the pair of 250km races.


10 different teams were represented in the pair of top-10 shootouts held on Saturday and Sunday, while teams’ like Coke Racing / Erebus, Matt Stone Racing, Cooldrive Racing and PremiAir Hire / Nulon Racing – who finished an outstanding fourth on Sunday with James Golding – all took massive steps forward this weekend.


The next stop for the Repco Supercars Championship will see the field return to Albert Park for their annual slot on the Australian Grand Prix program in Melbourne.