The 2018 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship assured with a additional appointment to Newcastle, and accession drama-filled finale.
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Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen entered the weekend breach by 14 points, but the Shell V-Power Racing disciplinarian prevailed by 71.
That allowance does little amends to what happened over the two days.
Van Gisbergen answerable bottomward his out-of-fuel battling to booty a last-lap win on Saturday, but was afresh handed a alienated amends for a pitstop infringement.
It put the brawl in McLaughlin’s cloister and he appropriately adapted to draw a band through his agitated end to 2017 at the bank artery circuit.
Beyond the appellation fight, we witnessed echo clashes amid the top two teams, several accelerate offs and a achievement that sums up an absorbing campaign.
McLaughlin buries 2017 demons
McLaughlin would accept accumulated a baby affluence over the aftermost 12 months, if he accustomed a dollar for every time accession brought up the contest of the 2017 Coates Hire Newcastle 500.
But from discussing it with media anon afterwards that alarming cessation through to the 2018 event, he never shied abroad from absent to apprentice and abound from it.
And on the affirmation of aftermost weekend’s division finale, that’s what he’s done.
The Sunday Pukekohe win would accept provided a cogent boost, but there was affluence that could accept befuddled McLaughlin off course.
That included actuality anesthetized by van Gisbergen on the final lap of the Saturday race, accident a win and seeing his credibility advance compress from 14 credibility to two.
Outwardly at least, he backward composed and afterwards said van Gisbergen’s amends – which angry his credibility advance into 53 – meant added pressure, not less.
Still, aback it came to the crisis on Sunday afternoon, McLaughlin outqualified and outraced van Gisbergen.
That’s what the 25-year-old had to do anyway, based on Saturday’s aboriginal results.
While he abandoned the win to David Reynolds, in allotment at Roger Penske’s instruction, it was the array of achievement you’d appetite to see from a new champion.
Deflated van Gisbergen avalanche short
Van Gisbergen and his Red Bull Holden Racing Aggregation would not accept been abandoned in beating their aperture with apprehension about the appellation rivals starting Sunday breach by two points.
The date was set for a winner-takes-all battle, but that’s not absolutely what we got.
A amends for a refuelling contravention on Saturday alone van Gisbergen to fifth, and meant McLaughlin could allowance the championship with a top six finish.
Van Gisbergen ultimately didn’t blaze a attempt in the race, spending the additional assignment bottled up abaft James Courtney and afresh jumping him for the final, alone for tyre accession to arrest his chase from there.
He accomplished fourth, and afterwards said: “I was still giving it aggregate on track, but not alone in the garage, the accomplished abode acquainted like the fizz was gone”.
Triple Eight had approved a sanction adjoin the aggregation rather than van Gisbergen for the Saturday pit mishap, but were bootless in their argument.
While van Gisbergen’s 2018 appellation bid ultimately fell short, the big bays would not accept looked out of abode in his hands.
Van Gisbergen and McLaughlin accept fought adamantine for it, in the appropriate spirit and with affluence of respect.
Elsewhere in the red and dejected corners
There did end up actuality clashes amid a Shell Ford and a Red Bull Holden in anniversary chase – aloof not analogous pre-event allocution that team-mates could appearance the appellation fight.
Rather than Fabian Coulthard, Jamie Whincup or Craig Lowndes demography credibility off – or alike abashing – the key protagonists, it was Coulthard and Whincup accepting ashore into anniversary other.
Both incidents occurred at Turn 12, but with the roles finer antipodal anniversary day.
On Saturday, Whincup on fresher tyres looked bottomward the central of Coulthard’s Ford at Turn 11, but could not get clear, which put him on the alfresco at Turn 12.
Contact amid the brace resulted in Whincup nosing the tyre barriers, appreciably comestible alone accessory accident and finishing fourth, which became third with van Gisbergen’s penalty.
Coulthard afterwards comatose heavily at Turn 1, catastrophe his race.
It was his repaired Falcon on the alfresco at Turn 12 on Sunday afternoon, and he absent out in this stoush, spinning rearwards into the fence and accident his rear wing.
Stewards took no added activity on either incident, Whincup demography third afresh and Coulthard classified 26th.
No fairytale finishes
Much of the spotlight was on Lowndes during his aftermost weekend as a full-time Supercars driver.
His Autobarn Commodore antic a appropriate aureate livery, Lowndes was acquiescently acclaimed during a array lap and bouncer of honour by teams and drivers bottomward pitlane on Sunday afternoon.
Lowndes led the acreage out for the aftermost race, which he started 12th and accomplished 11th, signing off activity “numb” and with a flurry of burnouts.
That followed Saturday’s attenuate access afterwards tagging the rear of Scott Pye’s Commodore in pitlane and comestible council damage.
It larboard Lowndes seven laps bottomward and the aftermost classified driver, while Pye ultimately accomplished fourth.
Mark Winterbottom is now an ex-Tickford Racing disciplinarian but additionally had a adieu afterwards one aftermost aftertaste of success.
He went from 22nd to sixth on Saturday and was afresh a balked 13th on Sunday.
Lee Holdsworth and Michael Caruso both accept ambiguous futures; Holdsworth accident his Aggregation 18 bench to Winterbottom and Caruso out of arrangement with what reverts to Kelly Racing afterward Nissan’s exit.
Holdsworth showed affluence of acceleration to authorize fifth anniversary day but had to achieve for 12th and ninth afterwards pitstop problems.
Caruso was alone 15th and 19th, while Nissan did at atomic almanac career-best after-effects of sixth for Andre Heimgartner and 10th for Simona De Silvestro.
Rick Kelly’s eighth in the championship was additionally the accomplished for an Altima disciplinarian in the sixth and aftermost year of Nissan’s banking backing.
Tim Blanchard, like Lowndes, stepped aback from full-time active but had to achieve for a best aftereffect of 22nd on Sunday, afterward incidents anniversary day.
Erebus’ absolute sign-off
How abundant college Erebus Motorsport and David Reynolds could ascend afterwards acceptable Bathurst in 2017 was an absorbing catechism to accede pre-season.
The answer, basically, was ‘much’, and the Holden band is assuming no signs of abetment off.
Reynolds was commonly the best of the blow abaft McLaughlin and the Triple Eight leash this year, and generally exhausted associates of that quartet on his way to fifth in the championship.
While back-to-back Bathurst wins went begging, Reynolds claimed three victories, 10 podiums and bristles ARMOR ALL Poles – up from his 2017 booty of one win and four podiums.
He capped an absorbing attack for Erebus with pole and a win on Sunday; a championship-minded McLaughlin opting adjoin a activity in the closing laps and affective aside.
Erebus additionally anchored a new best of fourth in the teams’ championship, one abode college than area it accomplished 2017.
It was helped in allotment by a arresting accident for Brad Jones Racing, which had acceleration above a weekend-best of 12th for Nick Percat on Sunday.
Pitlane problems – and Percat actuality wiped out by Coulthard’s Saturday blast – ultimately accepted cher and BJR fell from fourth to sixth in the teams’ standings.
In accession to bottomward abaft Erebus, it was anesthetized by Walkinshaw Andretti United, which had Pye and Courtney in the top 10 both days.
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