Shane van Gisbergen has once again denied Jamie Whincup his 100th race win, this time by a mere two-tenths of a second at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Whincup had a red hot go for the race lead, with two wheels in the dirt trying to dive past, but could not steal the win from his quick Kiwi teammate as smoke poured from his right front tyre through the closing laps.
The win is Van Gisbergen’s fifth of the season – his third win from the last six races – though he is the one pushing Whincup for the championship, now 98 behind.
After crossing the line 0.2460sec ahead of the sister Red Bull car, Van Gisbergen was excited about the battle.
“At the end, that was fun with Jamie, I knew he was coming through,” Van Gisbergen said.
“I made one mistake at turn one and had to defend, but other than that it was pretty cool, I enjoyed that one.”
Whincup hadn’t picked up the drama with his tyre in the car, reporting that it felt fine in the cockpit, as he focused on pushing past the #97 car.
“Good race, it all came down to track position at the end of the day,” Whincup said.
“Shane was quick. We have pretty much the exact same car, exact same setup … I gave it a crack, it was all good fun, didn’t bend any panels.”
After a tough fortnight off-track James Courtney took third position, after missing the races here last year because of a freak helicopter accident.
“The best thing we can do is get results and that’s exactly what the guys delivered… I’m a ‘Westie’ and it’s first time on the podium at Eastern Creek,” he said.
Pole man Chaz Mostert got the jump off the start-line, but van Gisbergen had snatched the lead early on the first lap.
A battle between Mostert and Scott Pye left the door open for Courtney, which ultimately meant a podium finish.
A power steering failure for Pye – not caused by contact in that early battle – saw the MAN Falcon pushed into the garage after a promising start.
Question marks over Scott McLaughlin’s right front didn’t stop him from finishing fifth, ahead of Craig Lowndes, who he is battling in the Championship.
Defending champ Mark Winterbottom finished 11th as a circuit he describes as “hit and miss” for him.