A broken lower control arm ended Shane van Gisbergen’s charge in the Superloop Adelaide 500, Red Bull Holden Racing Team manager Mark Dutton has confirmed.
Van Gisbergen was the hard-luck story of the 250km Sunday race; appearing destined for victory before his race unravelled in two parts.
The first was a botched second pitstop that meant the Kiwi needed a late splash of additional fuel, which dropped him back to fourth with 10 laps remaining.
Six laps later his race ended for good with a sudden failure, narrowly avoiding a collision with third-placed Cameron Waters when the breakage occurred as they battled at Turn 7.
“We can see that the right lower control arm has failed, [but] without stripping the car we can't know what caused it,” said Dutton post-race.
“Obviously there are a lot of kerbs here, it's a very aggressive track. We'll 100 percent get to the bottom of it.”
Van Gisbergen had been unable to adjust his anti-rollbars from early in the race; an issue that Dutton said could be related to the eventual failure.
The first sign of the control arm issue came straight after the third pitstop: “At that point we think the arm was bent, initially, so he's felt the bend and the suspension is in a different position.
“You could see from the lap times he was still able to go very fast, although I think he did button off a little bit. As he made the passing move it let go.”
Van Gisbergen’s radio messages reporting the issue created debate within the team about whether to tell the driver to settle for fourth or continue to press on.
Dutton is adamant backing off would not have helped, adding: “I believe it was too far gone, in hindsight, to even save it.
“Visually it looked fine, you couldn't see any smoke, tyre pressures were fine, the suspension seemed to be working... we were always thinking about do you tell him to button off or come in.
“But we were quite surprised at the pace he could keep doing, so that gave us what turned out to be false hope.”
Dutton admitted the team had been concerned about its lower control arms following a failure on Scott Pye’s Team 18 customer entry on Friday.
“We'd be foolish not to take that as warning, so all weekend they were meticulously inspected,” he said.
“We're confident that #97's went into the race not bent, not cracked, because of the Pye one.
“We were inspecting them with greater diligence. When you have a customer car running the same spec, you really focus on that. The damage happened during that race.”
As for whether the control arm issues were related to the introduction of a new control damper this weekend, Dutton said: “There are generally no coincidences.
“I'm not saying it's the damper's fault at all, but it's not like we'll exclude it from our investigation.
“We'll look at every piece of the puzzle and make sure we assign the blame, the responsibility, to each component as rightly deserved so we can move forward.”
The refuelling mistake meanwhile appears to have been human error, although Dutton stressed a full review needs to take place.
“It's a tough role, everyone thinks it's easy but the pit crew has a lot of pressure on it,” he said of the refueller, whose job is to detach the fuel hose when a light is illuminated on the nozzle.
“We've got to check we haven't had an electronic failure, because in that last stop the fuel man is waiting for a light to tell him when to detach from the car.
“We don't think there was an electronic failure, but we'll review the video to be sure.”