Shane Van Gisbergen claimed a chaotic opening race of the 2021 Supercars Championship as a host of rivals were forced to retire in a Bathurst blockbuster.
For the first time in 50 years, the season opener was taking place at the same track as the season prior. And just as he did in October’s Bathurst 1000, Van Gisbergen once again rose above the rest to open his season with a classy win from third place on the grid.
Van Gisbergen’s Red Bull Commodore was followed on the podium by Chaz Mostert of Walkinshaw Andretti United and Will Davison in his debut for the Shell V-Power Racing Team.
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RACE CENTRE: FULL RESULTS
The only two cars who out-qualified Van Gisbergen to start from the front of the grid – Cameron Waters and surprise package Tim Slade – both suffered massive dramas, with Slade failing to finish the race.
They weren’t the only ones, with Anton de Pasquale also crashing out in his debut race as replacement for three-time reigning champion Scott McLaughlin. Macauley Jones and Gary Jacobson also failed to reach the finish line as Bathurst played plenty of tricks.
Cam Waters’ perfect start quickly turned into a nightmare. Waters backed up his Bathurst 1000 pole position in October 2020 – and second-placed finish in the race – with another first-placed start on Mount Panorama in Saturday’s 250km sprint.
But after a dream start off the line, Waters was forced into the garage when a power steering issue struck his Monster Energy Ford Mustang after just eight laps.
From the lead, he was forced into the pits for a full five laps, but eventually returned on to track.
Waters had comfortably led the field with an inch-perfect start off the line, but Tim Slade couldn’t back up his exceptional front-row Shootout performance, falling to fifth by the end of the first corner.
He fought back with a sensational race, only to suffer a huge crash of his own while fighting for third place with five laps remaining.
Things were even worse for Anton De Pasquale, in his first race for reigning champions Dick Johnson Racing. Three-time reigning Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin made the call to head to the United States and race in IndyCar this season, handing De Pasquale a dream drive with DJR.
But De Pasquale lasted just seven laps on his debut before finding the wall in a single-car accident climbing up Mount Panorama, forcing the race’s only safety car.
DJR has an all-new driver line-up consisting of Will Davison and De Pasquale following the departure of McLaughlin. The spotlight was heavily on De Pasquale, having moved to a top team after finishing the 2020 championship in eighth and taking out his first race win. And while De Pasquale failed to reach the finish, Davison was rightly pleased after a podium on debut.
Shane van Gisbergen led the restart in his Triple Eight Racing Commodore, while Bryce Fullwood, who started in 12th, profited from an early pit stop to move up to second in his Walkinshaw Andretti United #2 by the restart.
Fullwood slipped to eighth after pitting, while Van Gisbergen fell to fifth after doing so himself. Chaz Mostert pitted with nine laps remaining, as did Mark Winterbottom in second, putting Jamie Whincup into the lead. After more pit stops, Van Gisbergen was a handful of seconds ahead of Mostert, with Davison some twenty seconds further down the track in third.
Slade had fought back into the top four and was fighting Will Davison – driving Slade’s former car – for third place.
Then Slade copped a huge shunt at the top of the hill with four laps to go, in what Fox Sports commentators called “monster contact.”
“That has destroyed the left hand side of the car! That’s heartbreaking,” Mark Skaife and Neil Compton said.
“I haven’t seen him put a foot wrong through practice, qualifying, and up to that point. But that one was a doozy.”
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It was his first race for new Blanchard Racing Team after a year away from the competition.
“We were having a pretty solid race. Lost the clutch there at the start of the race hence the bad start,” he said.
He described his crash saying: “Just went to downshift in the normal spot, and it went into neutral. Tried to grab it again… sent into in the wall.”
“I’m absolutely shattered for everyone in the team… It was a pretty massive hit.”
Van Gisbergen comfortably held on for the first victory of the season, and the 41st of his career.
WEEKEND SCHEDULE: (All times AEDT)
Armor All Qualifying (Race 1): 9:05am – 9:25am
Armor All Top Ten Shootout (Race 1): 12:10pm – 12:50pm
Race 1: 3:00pm – 4:50pm
Armor All Qualifying (Race 2): 9:05am – 9:25am
Armor All Top Ten Shootout (Race 2): 12:10pm – 12:50pm
Race 2: 3:00pm – 4:50pm
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