Shane van Gisbergen lamented a lack of progress fixing a ‘horrible’ feeling in his Red Bull Holden on a troubled day for the reigning champion at Hidden Valley.
Although still fourth in the standings, the Kiwi dropped from 37 to 187 points adrift of the championship lead after a clash with Garth Tander saw him fail to finish.
It marked van Gisbergen’s first DNF in 34 championship races, ending a run of finishes that stretched back to Symmons Plains in April, 2016.
Van Gisbergen said he felt something was broken in his car during yesterday’s practice, but the team failed to find any such issues overnight.
Instead chasing set-up to improve the car, van Gisbergen qualified fifth and – running a long strategy – was leading when he popped a tyre on lap 18 of 42.
"The car is still baffling us today,” van Gisbergen reflected of his day, having fought back to 15th at the time of his clash with Tander that broke his steering.
“We're still fast, but it just feels horrible. We couldn't fix anything, but we stayed fast.
“We qualified okay and the race was going alright, but we must have been too aggressive with the setup and popped the right rear tyre, so that's a shame.
“It put us at the back. I was trying to come through, I don't think I was desperate.
“I was calculated with all the passes, but I just got in with Garth Tander and the first hit broke the steering and I couldn't turn, so it's a real shame not to finish the race."
Van Gisbergen’s attempted pass on Tander at the tight hairpin was complicated by the arrival of Jason Bright, who squeezed the Red Bull entry and the Wilson Security Holden on the exit.
Tander later described the incident as a classic case of ‘three into one don’t go’.
“I think Shane tried to get in there and he hit me, and it looked like he was waiting, but then when the other dudes came through and we all hit it’s bent the steering then,” said Tander.
“The second impact is because I didn’t know where the steering was. It’s nearly 95 degrees out of centre and that’s taken Shane out of the race.
“We were probably out of control trying to get out of there together. It’s frustrating.
“We had damage before that because Will (Davison) speared me at the last corner in a pretty low percentage move and got me, bent all the steering.”