Flashback: The title-changing first visit to The Bend

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 26/04/2021
  • By James Pavey

The 2021 Repco Supercars Championship marks the fourth season The Bend Motorsport Park will host championship Supercars action.

The Tailem Bend venue will stage next weekend's OTR SuperSprint, which will be the fourth round of 2021. Tickets are on sale now.

The journey began in August 2018, with the South Australian venue playing host to two races which saw a major swing in the title fight.

To the event, which was the 11th of the season, Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen had shared 12 of the season’s 21 wins, McLaughlin winning seven to his compatriot’s five.

WATCH: HEAD TO THE BEND IN 2021

Van Gisbergen had landed a key blow at the previous event at Sydney Motorsport Park, winning the 300km race under lights, having stolen the lead from McLaughlin.

The two Tailem Bend races shaped the run home in 2018, which was headlined by the McLaughlin-van Gisbergen battle which was only settled in the final race of the season.

It was Jamie Whincup who claimed honours for the maiden Tailem Bend ARMOR ALL Pole Position on the Saturday, a feat he repeated 24 hours later.

McLaughlin battled all weekend

Whincup led the early stanza of the 24-lap race, before van Gisbergen moved ahead before an early Safety Car period.

From there, van Gisbergen controlled the race to take 2018 win No. 6 by over six seconds from Nissan duo Rick Kelly and Michael Caruso.

Whincup dropped to fourth, nearly 13 seconds adrift of his teammate, with Mark Winterbottom beating McLaughlin to fifth by half a second.

WATCH: THE BEND 2018: RACE 22 HIGHLIGHTS

McLaughlin, who led the standings over van Gisbergen by 89 points, saw his lead trimmed to just 41 points.

"Awesome race,” van Gisbergen said.

"I had a good battle with Jamie at the start and then unfortunately he had to get put back.

Van Gisbergen celebrates with team boss Roland Dane

"Rick put a lot of pressure on and it was really good, but then it was about staying on the track, it was so hard, one line and very hard, but I just tried to behave.

"We have to do some work, the car is not perfect, but hopefully we can come back tomorrow with a strong car and do the same thing.”

That appeared more than likely come Sunday, with van Gisbergen qualifying on the front row alongside Whincup.

The start to the Sunday race

Bruised by his late-race fade on Saturday, Whincup turned up the wick on Sunday to dominate the 41-lapper.

The seven-time series champion led from lights-out to the chequered flag, crossing the line 11.2 seconds ahead of van Gisbergen.

McLaughlin started and finished 10th, and was a staggering 35 seconds from the race lead after 41 laps.

WATCH: THE BEND 2018: RACE 23 HIGHLIGHTS

The Shell V-Power Racing Team driver’s 41-point lead had been turned into the 19-point deficit, with van Gisbergen outscoring his countryman by 108 points across the weekend.

It was a headline moment in van Gisbergen’s remarkable comeback; the 2016 champion trailed McLaughlin by 161 points after Darwin two months earlier.

After The Bend event, van Gisbergen had finished first or second in the last seven races, and on the podium in 10 of the last 11.

Whincup crosses the line to win

It was also a weekend to forget for the Blue Oval; Commodores filled the top six places in Sunday’s race.

"That’s pretty awesome. I saw the purple board [signifying the championship leader in parc ferme] and got a bit excited,” van Gisbergen said.

"There’s a long way to go, we need to keep our heads down, but the team gave us some rockets this weekend, a one-two is really special.”

McLaughlin would go on to have the last laugh, going on to clinch his first of three drivers’ titles later in the season in Newcastle.

The Race 23 podium

The Team Penske IndyCar driver, who finished 11th in St Petersburg on Monday AEST, is the winningest driver at The Bend with five victories.

The Repco Supercars Championship field will return to The Bend Motorsport Park for the OTR SuperSprint across May 7-9. Tickets are on sale now.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo with highlights on 7 and 7 Plus.

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