Shane van Gisbergen has laid down the gauntlet for Triple Eight to improve after Brodie Kostecki gapped the field at the OTR SuperSprint.
Erebus Motorsport driver Kostecki extended his championship lead to 137 points over a weekend he won all three races.
Van Gisbergen moved from third to second over the weekend, with Kostecki’s weekend Will Brown and Broc Feeney both suffering shockers.
Brown scooped just 88 points — with results of DNF, 13th and 13th — with Feeney scoring 148 points with finishes of sixth, ninth and 25th.
Feeney’s final race efforts were destroyed after he was spun out of a top 10 position while fighting Penrite Racing’s David Reynolds.
At the centre of it all was van Gisbergen, who claimed three fifth place finishes to lose 84 points relative to Kostecki.
He managed to avoid penalty, however, after being investigated over a pit stop incident in the last race. Triple Eight was, instead, fined and docked points over the infringement.
Van Gisbergen, however, refused to celebrate the dramas for his rivals, instead looking to again close the gap to the #99 Coca-Cola Camaro driver.
“I can’t celebrate other people’s misfortunes,” van Gisbergen said.
“It’s a shame for Will, seeing his crash yesterday, but Brodie’s driving away from us.
“They’re fast, so we need to get better.”
Van Gisbergen’s weekend got off to a terrible start as he battled more handling issues to be just 25th and 24th in the two practice sessions.
As drivers around him went up and down the order, van Gisbergen was fifth all the way through, although he did challenge for the podium in the middle race.
Speaking after Sunday’s race, van Gisbergen revealed his team went through five steering racks on the #97 Red Bull Ampol Camaro.
Triple Eight will need to turn to its enduro form to fight back; the team has won six of the last 10 Sandown 500s, and three of the last five Bathurst 1000s.
“You’ve got to thank the team,” he said.
“We’ve done five steering racks this weekend, we’ve run out, we got one off PremiAir [Racing] for that last race. But, they all just feel so different.
“It’s a real shame, it’s a worry for Sandown, that’s for sure, for everyone – we’re not the only ones that are having these problems – but I just struggled to drive it.
“But, Andrew [Edwards, race engineer] and my team, they’ve done a great job just trying to make the car as good as possible.
“We’ve still got points but Brodie’s super-fast — those guys have really nailed it. It’s still fun, but we’re just really battling with the car.”
Van Gisbergen will race with Richie Stanaway at the Penrite Oil Sandown 500 and Repco Bathurst 1000.