The Vodafone Gold Coast 600 provided another dramatic chapter in the 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship season.
It was a weekend of headlines with two big crashes, a dramatic benching and some old fashioned Red Bull Holden Racing Team dominance.
Supercars.com takes a closer look at the talking points from the weekend that was.
It was the enduring image of the event; Scott McLaughlin’s Shell V-Power Racing Mustang on its side at Turn 4, with Shane van Gisbergen parking up and sprinting to his aid.
McLaughlin’s monumental accident was a reminder to all of the lack of margin for error on street circuits, and the potential consequences of getting it slightly wrong.
The 26-year-old hadn’t seemed his usual clinical self all weekend; tagging the walls in Friday practice and again in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Had the enormity of the previous fortnight had an effect? Achieving a lifelong dream of winning Bathurst and then enduring the angst that followed would have taken energy out of anyone.
It’s impossible to know, but the main thing was McLaughlin emerged unscathed, while van Gisbergen showed rivalries are non-existent in moments that truly matter.
Van Gisbergen remains the only driver who can mathematically take the title from McLaughlin, but with 463 points separating them and just 600 available, it’s still very much a ‘when not if’.
And Mostert too
McLaughlin was of course not the only driver to suffer a big hit at Surfers Paradise, with Chaz Mostert’s weekend-ending shunt into the Turn 11 wall in the Saturday Shootout.
Again it was the tiniest misjudgement that brought it all unstuck; a clip of the inside wall pitching the Supercheap Ford into the exposed concrete on the outside.
The frustration in the Tickford garage was obvious, with the incident following Mostert’s Bathurst faux pas, and ahead of his expected move to Walkinshaw Andretti United next year.
There’s no denying Mostert has been more accident-prone than his key rivals in recent seasons. It’s a trait he’s going to need to solve if he’s to ever become champion.
While mistakes and inconsistency are often the result of trying to do more than what the equipment is capable of, that’s not an equation that a move to WAU will instantly solve.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team was always going to be hard to beat on the Gold Coast, even before the two fastest Fords crashed out.
After falling just short at Bathurst, the ‘dream team’ line-up lived up to its billing; as its weekend haul of 10 surfboard trophies attested.
The real interest in both races was about which Red Bull car would win. Ultimately it was one apiece to Jamie Whincup/Craig Lowndes and Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander.
On both occasions, the car with better tyres at the end – due to being on the ‘long strategy’ – held station, working on Sunday as a rear-gunner as David Reynolds closed.
While team orders had been in the spotlight at Bathurst, the rule as it stands prevents third parties from intervening and giving orders, not the team itself.
In the end, the luxury of choosing which car won the races was well earned, and the teams’ championship battle closed dramatically as a result.
On any other day, Garry Rogers Motorsport’s decision to bench Richie Stanaway just moments before Sunday qualifying would have been the big story.
Having missed the morning’s autograph session, team boss Garry Rogers came down hard on the driver, subbing him out for Super2 rookie Dylan O’Keeffe.
It was a public humiliation for Stanaway, who’d insisted missing the session was an honest mistake, appearing on the verge of tears in a television interview.
While the rights and wrongs of the move have been the subject of much public debate, one can only hope it’s looked back on as a watershed moment in Stanaway’s career.
The former GP2 and international GT ace arrived on the Supercars scene with a bang, winning the 2017 Sandown 500 as a co-driver, but he’s had two shocking full-time seasons since.
Few would argue he doesn’t have the talent to rise to the top of Supercars, but whether he gets that opportunity remains to be seen.
The PIRTEK Enduro Cup line-up of co-drivers is invariably filled with recently retired full-time drivers and a string of dependable, experienced campaigners.
While there were many strong co-driving performances at Surfers Paradise, a trio of Super2 young guns deserve mention for their efforts on what is arguably the toughest of the three venues.
Thomas Randle shone brightest, holding his own in the top five through his entire stints on Saturday and Sunday aboard Lee Holdsworth’s Bottle-O Ford, in just his third main game event.
Super2 points leader Bryce Fullwood was equally solid on Saturday, running sixth when he pitted the #7 Altima to hand to Andre Heimgartner, before being an innocent party in the lap one Sunday carnage.
Penrite Racing’s Will Brown was also hard done by when he was spun on Sunday, but being eighth at the end of his Saturday stint was a fine effort.
Each are pushing for main game drives next year and did themselves no harm on a Gold Coast weekend where staying out of trouble was easier said than done.