The rain came to Townsville and it was Shane van Gisbergen who took out the second leg of the Watpac Townsville 400 Supercars race on Sunday.
Scott McLaughlin, who had consecutively won the last six races, was punted by a hard-charging David Renolds heading into turn two on the opening lap. Reynolds damaged his steering and retired while McLaughlin limped to the pits with a right rear puncture.
Other drams included title contender Jamie Whincup crashing out in the slippery conditions while Nick Percat’s Holden caught fire in the pits.
“It was really tough,” commented van Gisbergen. “I was struggling a lot and I had no grip on the slicks at the start and then it got better and then after the safety car I had zero grip. Then we did a good job at the pit stop, fueling the car up to have enough to get to the end. It was the right call, we pitted on the right lap.
“As a team victory, that’s the biggest team victory there is. That’s one in the sheds there and I was the lucky guy to be driving the right car. Jamie (Whincup) looked like he had a good start, he was catching us and going well, so it’s a real shame he had a DNF. Hopefully the car’s not damaged too badly. For us as a team, I think it’s a huge leap forwards this weekend in performance, so hopefully we can carry it on.”
The race started in semi-wet conditions, with light drizzle falling over the Reid Park street circuit. This would prove to be the first ever wet race in Townsville, and conditions only worsened as the race wore on.
Starting off the front row beside pole-sitter Cam Waters, Championship leader Scott McLaughlin was in second place heading down into Turn 2 when he was hit in the rear by Erebus Racing’s David Reynolds, which knocked them both to the back of the pack.
McLaughlin returned to pit lane with a right rear puncture, and then had to mount a recovery drive to make his way back up the order and minimize the damage to his 2019 Championship campaign.
Stewards took no action on the incident.
Across the remaining 69 laps, the rain increased to the point where wet tyres were the call on lap 30 and for the remainder of the race. McLaughlin drove well to finish 11th, a fantastic result after being damaged early and dropping a lap down. He has a 292-point gap to Coulthard in the standings.
Coulthard started from fifth, but jumped into third at Turn 2 when McLaughlin and Reynolds came together. He got himself to the lead of the race in the middle stint, after chasing down and passing Tickford’s Cameron Waters.
When the rain started to fall, and the switch to wets occurred, Coulthard worked hard to stay up front as he battled with Shane van Gisbergen and Chaz Mostert.
Another Safety Car was called very late in the race when Garry Jacobsen’s Nissan caught fire on the track, and Nick Percat’s Holden was set alight in pit lane due to a fuel spillage. This was a long period, and the race ended up finishing under yellow flags.
Coulthard took a strong second place, and remains second now 207 points clear of Van Gisbergen. Shell V-Power Racing is 877 points in front of Triple Eight in the Teams’ standings.
“It would have been great to win my 400th race, but whenever you get a podium in the category you’re doing a good job so to finish second in those conditions is great,” commented Coulthard. “The track was changing with every lap. My car was so good in the dryer conditions, and then the rain came down. There were some wild battles with Shane and Chaz, and when you add spray to the mix it was pretty crazy. Great to finish on the podium and keep up our momentum.”
Fellow Kiwi driver Andre Heimgartner finished 15th.
The next event on the calendar, the Century Batteries Ipswich SuperSprint, is in three weeks time.
Watpac Townsville 400 (Race 18)
Pos Driver Laps/Diff Int
1 New Zealand Shane van Gisbergen 64 Laps
2 New Zealand Fabian Coulthard +0.7842 +0.7842
3 Australia Cameron Waters +1.4442 +0.6600
4 Australia Anton De Pasquale +2.0449 +0.6007
5 Australia Chaz Mostert +2.8103 +0.7654
6 Australia Rick Kelly +4.2680 +1.4577
7 Australia James Golding +4.6821 +0.4141
8 Australia Lee Holdsworth +5.3413 +0.6592
9 Australia Michael Caruso +7.2339 +1.8926
10 Switzerland Simona de Silvestro +9.4657 +2.2318
11 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin +10.2416 +0.7759
12 Australia Tim Slade +24.2603 +14.0187
13 Australia James Courtney +1 Lap +1 Lap
14 Australia Jack Le Brocq +1 Lap +3.6409
15 New Zealand Andre Heimgartner +1 Lap +1.3933
16 Australia Scott Pye +1 Lap +3.0458
17 Australia Todd Hazelwood +1 Lap +2.3408
18 Australia Macauley Jones +1 Lap +2.7842
19 Australia Nick Percat +1 Lap +18.7805
20 Australia David Reynolds +4 Laps +3 Laps
21 Australia Will Davison +13 Laps +9 Laps
DNF Australia Garry Jacobson +5 Laps
DNF Australia Mark Winterbottom +17 Laps +12 Laps
DNF Australia Jamie Whincup +46 Laps +29 Laps