Shane van Gisbergen has kicked off his Virgin Australia Supercars Championship title defence in magnificent style with victories in both of the 250km races that make up the Clipsal 500 Adelaide championship season opener.
Capping off what was a perfect weekend for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore driver, van Gisbergen also claimed pole position starts for both races.
In Saturday’s 250km race he scored a comfortable victory over Fabian Coulthard’s Shell V-Power Racing Falcon and the Mobil 1 HSV Racing Commodore of James Courtney.
Sunday’s race was not so straightforward, with van Gisbergen’s team’s pit strategy forcing the New Zealander into a long catch-up drive that for a while looked as though it would only yield second place, at best.
Out front, Coulthard’s new team-mate for 2017, Scott McLaughlin, held sway for much of the race distance and appeared to have his pursuers under control.
However, van Gisbergen was able to slowly chip away at McLaughlin’s lead advantage so that he was in a position to mount an attack as the final laps approached. In the end the battle proved an anti-climax as McLaughlin slid wide under brakes for the hairpin, handing the lead and the victory to van Gisbergen in the process.
“Just as I got to him, I saw his big moment,” said Van Gisbergen, who said that despite the dominant performance there was still plenty of improvement left in his car.
“We had a pretty average (pre-season) test … we still had vibrations this week, but the car was fast.”
McLaughlin was crestfallen after making that error that put paid to what would have been victory on debut with the Shell V-Power Racing Team.
“I thought today could’ve been the day we got our first win, but there’s a lot of promise there,” McLaughlin said. “I’m feeling really confident, but I’m just gutted – you lead a whole race and then you lose it.”
The Supercars team regroup for the non-championship series of races at the Rolex Australian Grand Prix from March 23-26. From there they journey to Tasmania for the second round of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at Symmons Plains on April 8-9.