The split-second decision which set up Race 19 epic

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 21/07/2021
  • By James Pavey

A split-second decision and a slice of “luck” helped Cameron Waters defeat Shane van Gisbergen and Will Davison in an epic Race 19 battle.

Waters defied van Gisbergen and Davison in the thrilling WD-40 Townsville SuperSprint finale following a mid-race BP Ultimate Safety Car.

It was a complex sequence of events which saw Waters regain the lead, van Gisbergen pushed back to third and Davison’s undercut attempt stifled.

With Tickford Racing toppling Red Bull Ampol Racing at one of Triple Eight’s strongholds, momentum is now with Waters in the title fight, at least in the driver’s mind.

Waters, who won the day’s earlier race, had been overtaken by van Gisbergen on lap 5.

When Macauley Jones hit the wall at Turn 10 on lap 18, van Gisbergen enjoyed a 1.8s lead over Waters, with Todd Hazelwood 4.3 further back.

Davison and the Shell V-Power Racing Team had taken a punt on strategy five laps earlier, with the two-time Bathurst winner brought in from third.

Davison was 1.2s behind Waters when he made his three-tyre stop, which took 7.5s to complete.

When Jones hit the wall, Davison had shaved a second off the margin to van Gisbergen in the five laps following his stop, and was 39.1s down.

Jones was 50 seconds off the lead; 20 seconds passed from the time he hit the wall, to the scrambling of the Safety Car.

Van Gisbergen and Waters rounded Turn 11 when the Safety Car boards were shown; van Gisbergen fired into the lane, while Waters pressed on.

“I saw Macauley’s car stopped, and the Safety Car boards came out at pit entry,” said Waters, whose boss Tim Edwards labelled the win as the "best" of the driver's career.

“Shane decided to go in, and I hadn’t heard anything, so I decided the press on.

“Obviously got past the Safety Car and attacked on the in-lap, and I think that was probably what gave me the lead.

“Just a bit of luck, I suppose, to stay out and push that extra lap."

At the time, van Gisbergen led Waters by 1.6s. Waters, Todd Hazelwood and Nick Percat stayed out, and managed to beat the Safety Car itself to the timing line.

Waters was able to complete another lap at full speed before taking his stop and grabbed the lead back.

To gauge how much Waters was pushing on his in-lap, he was just 0.108s slower across the first two sectors of the Reid Park Street Circuit on lap 19, which was under Safety Car conditions, than lap 18.

Van Gisbergen also lost time in his stop, which was 9.2s, some 1.7s slower than Davison’s. Van Gisbergen missed the mark in his pit bay, whereas Davison was bang-on.

Waters, meanwhile, also stopped on the mark and was stationary for 8.1s.

“The Safety Car was a bit gutting,” said van Gisbergen, who reiterated that he wasn't thinking about the title fight in his battle with Waters.

“I came around [Turn] 11 and saw the guy with the board start to come out.

“I ducked in, which is normally the right thing to do.

“And as I come out onto the front straight, he’s sitting there with the yellow lights on in the middle of Turn 1, which is incorrect.

“That was a little bit of a shame, but we wouldn’t have had the battle if that didn’t happen.”

It set up a grandstand finish between Waters and van Gisbergen, who after clearing Davison, tried to no avail to displace the #6 Monster Energy Mustang.

The cork in the battle had been Davison, who had gained time in the laps after his stop, only to lose his advantage when the Safety Car was deployed.

“I lost six, seven seconds behind the Safety Car, we should’ve been a long way up the road with the undercut that worked really well,” Davison said.

“I cruised behind the Safety Car, the green lights weren’t on, down in first, second gear, Shane and I.

“Lost a good six, seven seconds there which was disappointing. But that’s the way it goes, there haven’t been many Safety Cars lately.

“The one race we had a bit of a crack and went early, took a bit of a punt, I think it could have worked well, because we saw at the end my tyres were quite a lot older, but we still had good pace.”

The 16-lap sprint to the end after the Safety Car was brought in began with an error from Davison at Turn 6, following by another at Turn 7.

Van Gisbergen followed through Turns 8 and 9, found an overlap into Turn 10, and had the pass completed through Turn 11.

When the field commenced lap 25, Waters led van Gisbergen by 1.6s.

Lap after lap, van Gisbergen tried and failed to overtake Waters.

The closest he got was at the end of lap 33, with the duo running line astern down to Turn 2.

Waters hung van Gisbergen wide and held on through Turn 2, with the two drivers exchanging pleasantries from inside their cockpits.

Waters clung to the lead by his fingertips, and denied van Gisbergen win No. 12 of 2021 by just 0.8s.

“It wasn’t easy [to hold van Gisbergen off],” said Waters, who helped Tickford to multiple wins on a weekend for the first time since 2015.

“I just placed the car in all the right spots, and just hoped he’d burn his tyres up in the process.

“I was just counting down the laps until Will got in on the action as well.

“I saw him closing the gap, and from that point on, I probably did enough to cook [van Gisbergen’s] tyres and stay in front.”

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