Only 14 championship points separate Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen after the penultimate round of the Supercars Championship at the Pukekohe circuit in New Zealand.
Triple Eight Commodore driver van Gisbergen triumphed on Saturday, in a controversial affair that saw him given a five-second time penalty for an altercation with McLaughlin’s DJR Team Penske Falcon, which finished second.
Van Gisbergen’s win was protested by McLaughlin’s team later in the afternoon on the grounds that the Triple Eight Commodore had illegally rotated its rear wheels during a pitstop. The protest was later dismissed, officials deciding that a complete rotation of the wheel had not occurred.
In a further point of contention, van Gisbergen was criticised for parking his car after the race in such a way that McLaughlin was unable to open the door of his car in order to exit the vehicle.
The ‘parking incident’ added further spice to the battle between the two title aspirants as they prepared for battle in Sunday’s race. Here McLaughlin made amends, scoring a solid victory.
Van Gisbergen’s Saturday form eluded him on Sunday, a tweak to the setup seemingly taking the car in the wrong direction. He would have ended up a relatively distant third had Triple Eight team-mate Jamie Whincup not slowed down on the last lap to allow van Gisbergen by and into second place.
Reigning champion Whincup has now bowed out of the title race, leaving the series to be decided between van Gisbergen and McLaughlin on the streets of Newcastle in three weeks.
McLaughlin was beaten to the title at Newcastle last year in a dramatic and narrow title showdown with Whincup.