The Debrief: More machine than man

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 26/03/2021
  • By James Pavey

The obvious takeaway from the Penrite Oil Sandown SuperSprint was that Shane van Gisbergen is in a serious vein of form.

He won three races, one of them from 17th on the grid, with broken ribs and metalwork on his busted collarbone.

Of all his previous successes, even a Bathurst 1000 triumph five months ago, his Sandown performance was special.

Behind him, the usual suspects came to the fore, while a wily veteran and confident rookie also made their presence felt.

Supercars.com has weighed into the five key storylines from the Sandown weekend that was.

Busted body? No worries for SVG

Three races, three wins, two poles, and a lot a painkillers.

That was the weekend for the championship leader, who edged towards more history with an unbeaten start to the season.

The narrative heading into the weekend was if he would even be able to get through first practice on Saturday morning.

By Saturday’s end, nearly all in the Sandown paddock, and those watching from afar, scratched their heads.

Neil Crompton, writing in his exclusive Supercars.com column, summed it best: "Only Shane and those closest to him, and medical staff, will know the extent of the injury, and the impact of it.

"It was phenomenal. I wouldn’t like to do simple domestic chores with a collarbone that’s patched up with plates and screws, let alone wrestle a race car around such a circuit.

"Even if it was the world’s best surgeon, and everything was perfect, the pain from the invasion in his body would have been immense."

Waters and Whincup in the fight

Cameron Waters and Jamie Whincup were van Gisbergen’s closest challengers, with the #97-#6-#88 trio filling the podium for Races 3 and 4.

Had Waters not suffered his power steering failure in the first race at Mount Panorama, his 170-point deficit to van Gisbergen would have been much smaller.

From Sunday in Bathurst onwards, Waters has recorded finishes of second, second, second and sixth. That’s title-fight consistency.

Someone who knows all about that is Whincup, who has meticulously pieced together seven title-winning campaigns.

He was also off the pace in Bathurst, but recovered at Sandown to rise to second in the standings.

Considering how tight the margins are in the category, both drivers may rue their Bathurst failings come December’s Gold Coast season finale.

However, they’re still in the fight. It’s about staying close on the poor days; with van Gisbergen already a full race ahead, they can’t have too many more bad days.

Mostert and Shell Fords still in it... just

Chaz Mostert was strong in Bathurst, and entered the weekend just 33 points off the championship lead.

He left Sandown 163 points behind, having failed to score a podium finish across the three races.

The Walkinshaw Andretti United driver, like the Shell V-Power Racing Team duo, showed genuine glimpses of pace at Sandown.

Notably, Mostert soared to pole on Saturday, with an early pit stop the primary reason behind his failure to hold off those behind on fresher rubber.

The throttle drama on Sunday really hurt, Mostert dropping 78 points to van Gisbergen in one race alone.

Anton De Pasquale’s engine failure in Race 4, and Will Davison’s unfortunate run-in with Nick Percat in Race 3 also saw the Shell Fords drop points.

They’re also in the fight, but haemorrhaging points won’t win championships.

Can’t keep a larrikin down

David Reynolds’ last podium, on the streets of the Gold Coast in 2019, seemed a lifetime ago prior to his Sunday breakthrough.

It took just five races for the Kelly Grove Racing switch to pay dividends for Reynolds following a podium-less final season with Erebus Motorsport.

To Tasmania, Reynolds is in the top 10 overall, and has balanced his new life as a father superbly with his racing.

The last race he completed at Symmons Plains, the championship’s next event, saw Reynolds on the podium.

With KGR firing on nearly all cylinders, with Andre Heimgartner also impressive at Sandown, watch out for Reynolds to keep the momentum going.

The bolt from the blue

Erebus Motorsport replaced Reynolds and De Pasquale with two rookies, and the detractors came running to have their say.

Results are the best way to prove them wrong, but Brodie Kostecki’s run to second in Race 5 took everything to another level.

A pure racer’s racer, as coined by Crompton, Kostecki wrung the neck of his #99 Boost Mobile Commodore to register a maiden podium in just his 11th start.

Will Brown also showed genuine pace, so far proving Erebus has made the right call.

Those who know Kostecki best would know how hard he works, so it would have been little surprise that he hit the front so soon.

But doing so in such treacherous conditions was one serious statement that Kostecki, and Brown for that matter, are made of what it takes to make it work in the main game.

The Repco Supercars Championship field will return to Symmons Plains for the Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint across April 10-11. Tickets are on sale now.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo.

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