The Debrief: Blue Oval bounces back at The Bend

11 May 2021
To The Bend, Ford fans wondered if the Blue Oval would ever win

Through the opening three rounds in 2021, many Ford fans wondered if the Blue Oval would get on the board at all this season.

Those fears were allayed in two dominant days at The Bend Motorsport Park, with Ford drivers sweeping all poles and wins at the OTR SuperSprint.

  • 10 stats that mattered: OTR SuperSprint

Each race provided a point of difference to the other; Andre Heimgartner was dominant in the wet, Anton De Pasquale was resolute, while Cameron Waters converted track position into victory.

However, through the Mustang dominance, Shane van Gisbergen left South Australia with an extended points lead, despite his winless run stretching out to five races.

In the wake of the fourth round of the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship, Supercars.com highlights the key talking points from the weekend that was.

Magnificent Mustangs

After the Beaurepaires Tasmania SuperSprint, Ford remained winless through eight races.

Critically, it’s not like Mustangs have been off the pace; Waters alone had several chances to win prior to his Race 11 breakthrough.

He lost the Race 1 lead at Bathurst due to a power steering drama, ceded the lead to van Gisbergen on the final lap in Sandown’s opener, and led all three Symmons Plains races.

It was Heimgartner and Kelly Grove Racing which combined to dominate a sodden Saturday, while De Pasquale and the Shell V-Power Racing Team threatened to swallow the field whole on Sunday.

If not for De Pasquale’s Race 11 engine misfire, Waters would have been consigned to another missed opportunity; instead, he made it count, and remained adamant van Gisbergen and Red Bull Ampol Racing aren’t unbeatable.

SVG’s championship bid takes shape

From there, though, lies Waters and co’s greatest challenge: overhauling the margin to van Gisbergen.

The Kiwi has gone five races without a win, a stark contrast to his record-equalling six wins to open the season.

However, he has finished no lower than seventh in the five races, and has finished on the podium in three of them.

With his key rivals finding drama across The Bend weekend, van Gisbergen topped the round point haul despite failing to win a race.

Van Gisbergen won his 2016 title through consistency, and he’s doing the same in 2021. It seems the only thing that could upset his championship charge is reliability.

Making it count

Therein lies De Pasquale’s problem; while he was the key pace-setter on Sunday, an engine drama in Race 11 saw the Shell Ford ace suffer a third DNF in 11 starts.


Two of those DNFs have been due to engine dramas, the other coming at Sandown.

His season began poorly with an accident early in Race 1, with a crash at the Cutting seeing De Pasquale drop points at the first chance of asking.

With podiums at Symmons Plains, and the win at The Bend, De Pasquale has time and again proven he can do it; he just needs the rub of the green.

Being 464 points adrift a third into the season all but ends his title bid; but the tone has been set for De Pasquale, and teammate Will Davison, to carry on the iconic Ford team’s winning ways.

The rise and rise of Andre

To those close to Heimgartner, the Race 9 result would have been no surprise. If anything, it appeared a relief, with race engineer Dilan Talabani explaining to Supercars.com that the result was well overdue.

The New Zealander’s Saturday was near-perfect; Heimgartner hit the front in practice, was untouchable in wet qualifying, and had the mettle to maximise his NED Whisky Mustang in mixed conditions in the race.

The only blip was the contact with Jamie Whincup in the lane, which cost him a five-second penalty; even then, he had more than enough back to Chaz Mostert to cruise to victory.

He returned on Sunday a renewed force, but perhaps tried too hard; he played a key role in the Race 10 drama which wiped out Waters and Mostert, and got caught up in another incident in Race 11.

Regardless, a win’s a win; but the challenge remains for Kelly Grove Racing to carry it to Winton and beyond, having seen Heimgartner tread water in Tasmania.

As SVG bolts, a chasing pack emerges

Van Gisbergen’s 190-point lead makes for bad reading for his challengers; teammate Whincup was nowhere all weekend, while the likes of Mostert, Waters, De Pasquale and Davison all had their moments of frustration.

If not for a poor Sandown weekend, Davison would likely be on van Gisbergen’s tail, having scored podiums at three of four events.

Davison’s five podiums are only better by van Gisbergen’s eight; only van Gisbergen has clinched trophies at all four events.

Whincup, Mostert, Davison and Waters have all clinched podiums at three events. Along with De Pasquale, they seem the runaway frontrunners.

The outlier is Mark Winterbottom, who despite failing to podium through the opening 11 races, still remains sixth overall.

With Winton another engineer’s nightmare, the gaps could close once again; van Gisbergen has only claimed one career win at the circuit.

Whincup, Mostert, Davison and Waters are all covered by just 74 points. Push may come to shove in the battle for runner-up honours, even if it is too early to concede defeat to van Gisbergen.

The Repco Supercars Championship field will return to Victoria for the Winton SuperSprint across May 29-30. Tickets are available here.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo with highlights on 7 and 7 Plus.

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