Shane van Gisbergen ended Mark Winterbottom’s dominance of the MSS Security V8 Supercars Challenge, but Winterbottom was still the big winner at the 2012 Formula 1 QANTAS Australian Grand Prix.
Stone Brothers Racing driver van Gisbergen won the final race, while fifth was enough for Winterbottom to win the weekend and pocket the $100,000 major prize, having won the three earlier races.
The race start was Ford Performance Racing star Winterbottom’s Achilles heel, dropping from pole position to fourth by the first corner as Garth Tander swooped into the lead. Further back, Greg Murphy – who started ninth – was turned around as the rest of the field took evasive action.
Tander started the 15-lap race on the harder tyre but pitted at the end of the first lap to switch to the softer Sprint Tyres. That handed the lead to Will Davison and Lee Holdsworth, both on Sprints, and van Gisbergen on the hard tyre.
At the end of Lap 3, van Gisbergen and Winterbottom pitted for the faster rubber while Davison, Holdsworth and David Reynolds worked to build a buffer. When Davison and Holdsworth pitted for their compulsory tyre stop on Lap 8, Davison – now on the hard tyre – rejoined immediately in-front of Tander, Fabian Coulthard and van Gisbergen, but was quickly passed.
As tyre life came to the fore, so did van Gisbergen. He passed Coulthard and then Tander to take the lead, going on to win by 2.6s over Tander and Coulthard.
“We decided to run a bit longer on the hard tyre because our softs weren’t in the best condition. We were struggling to do 12 or 13 laps in the previous days and that’s what we needed to do today,” van Gisbergen said.
“I pushed hard for the first few laps and I was actually sort of keeping pace with the soft tyre runners. We pitted for softs and Garth and Fabian had run a few more laps so they had quite a gap, but I stuck to a lap time and caught them. By running those few extra laps on the hards, I could keep a pretty good pace on the softs.
“It was pretty cool to come out and get a win here.”
Davison was fourth, leading home Ford Performance Racing stable-mates Winterbottom and Reynolds. The result was enough for Winterbottom to win the MSS Security V8 Supercars Challenge.
“It’s been a good weekend,” Winterbottom said.
“We made some changes overnight and I was interested to see how it went. On the hard tyre, it’s so slippery on [grid position] 1 – all weekend, I’ve just been trying to get it off the line – and you get swamped because the guys on soft tyres get better starts, and that hurt me.
“We really struggled in that race on the hard tyre, I didn’t have much grip at all. But then we put the soft tyre on and we were the quickest car on the track and started to pull cars in.”
Holdsworth was seventh in today’s race, ahead of Craig Lowndes, Todd and Rick Kelly. Lowndes’ team-mate Jamie Whincup was forced out early with a brake problem, capping a strange weekend for TeamVodafone. Having suffered an engine problem in Race 2, Lowndes was 12th in the weekend points, with Whincup 19th after yesterday’s opening lap incident.