It was the one that got away for Shane van Gisbergen, who was by far and away the fastest on Sunday at the Superloop Adelaide 500.
Van Gisbergen claimed pole position for Race 2, and led 51 of 78 laps in the 250km marathon. Late into the race, he held a nine-second lead over countryman and rival Scott McLaughlin.
Early on, things began to unravel despite van Gisbergen’s standout pace. Having lost the lead into Turn 1 to McLaughlin, van Gisbergen suffered a suspected broken front anti-rollbar in the opening laps.
After grabbing the lead back in the pits under the second yellow, van Gisbergen set a cracking pace, only to be sent back for a third pit stop after his Red Bull Holden crew failed to put enough fuel in the car – an incident team manager Mark Dutton diagnosed as “human error”.
Van Gisbergen emerged fourth behind Chaz Mostert and Cameron Waters, having ceded the lead to McLaughlin.
After erasing a three-second margin to Waters, van Gisbergen had a crack at Turn 7 on Lap 75. It would be his final lap, the #97 ZB Commodore grinding to a halt with a broken lower control arm on the right front.
Superloop Adelaide 500 winner Scott McLaughlin has consoled hot rival Shane van Gisbergen after dual disasters cruelled the Red Bull Holden drivers’ race-winning efforts.
McLaughlin’s first win since last year’s controversial Bathurst 1000 thriller came when he least expected it, thanks to van Gisbergen being the recipient of two key dramas which ultimately resulted in a non-finish.
Van Gisbergen ceded the lead to McLaughlin from pole on the run to Turn 1, before regaining it through the first round of stops following a lapse by the Shell V-Power Racing crew.
From there, van Gisbergen was on a tear and gapped McLaughlin with ease, and the Red Bull Holden squad looked to have retained the 2016 series champion’s advantage after negating McLaughlin’s undercut effort through the second pit cycle.
However, it became apparent Red Bull Holden had failed to fill van Gisbergen’s car, with the win slipping away in a heartbeat.
A podium still loomed for van Gisbergen as the team bolted on fresh tyres in his third stop, but as he ranged to the back of Cameron Waters’ #6 Monster Mustang, the #97 went long at Turn 7 with a handful of laps remaining.
A right front suspension failure appeared to be the drama, and van Gisbergen crawled to a halt at the exit of Turn 8.
Van Gisbergen hitched a ride back to the lane in Waters’ car, but only after watching McLaughlin sail through to claim a second Adelaide 500 crown on the bounce.
McLaughlin then found out van Gisbergen and consoled his rival, who was cleary despondent after watching a great chance at silverware fall into a heap. In a way, it was McLaughlin’s response to van Gisbergen coming to his aid following his major Gold Coast crash last year.
Speaking prior to the podium celebrations, McLaughlin knew it was a win which fell from the heavens, van Gisbergen’s lead a whopping nine seconds prior to the #97’s third stop.
“Full credit to Shane and his team, they really should’ve won that race,” McLaughlin said.
“They had the faster car. I’ll take it, I’ll take the luck we can.
“I’m really happy for all the Ford fans out there that got a win today.”
Friendly fire! 1st lap chaos
McLaughlin’s pit dramas on Sunday were cancelled out by the win, although his team got it right 24 hours earlier when he vaulted from P7 at the start to P2 by the end, finishing a distant second to Jamie Whincup.
In a year the margins are expected to be tight, with Red Bull Holden – despite van Gisbergen’s Sunday failure – making gains, McLaughlin knows his team must be tip-top if he’s to claim a third drivers’ title on the bounce.
“I won’t look back at it, my guys always put me on a great strategy, yesterday they put me on an awesome one,” he continued.
“Today I was like, ‘damn, we didn’t get in front of him’, but I had to pull my socks up and have a crack.
“I’m really proud of everyone, thanks for all the support, I’m ready for a big year.”