Anton De Pasquale has dominated Race 16 in the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown to lead a Shell V-Power Racing Team home one-two.
For Red Bull Ampol Racing, it was a missed opportunity for Shane van Gisbergen, who suffered a slow pit stop and eventually drove home late in the section to secure third place.
In his 500th race, Will Davison defended himself bravely but was ultimately unable to convert pole position after losing the lead to his teammate on lap 1.
“It’s great, always good to get a one-two,” said De Pasquale.
“We got pretty close in Turn 5, but we all came out on the other side, so hopefully it was good racing for everyone at home.
“We always try to put on a good show here in Darwin, so yeah, great race.”
Off the line, it was a relatively even break between the Dick Johnson Racing entries. Andre Heimgartner got his car off the line well, but Davison covered on the run up to Turn 1, leaving the R&J Batteries Racing driver nowhere to go.
Under the brakes, De Pasquale got his nose for Davison and got stuck outside. The pair duly ran side by side through the esses, only to make wheel-to-wheel contact en route into Turn 5. Fortunately, the pair got out unscathed, although De Pasquale was victorious.
Macauley Jones (#96 Kubota Racing) was an early victim of the first lap melee when he fell off the road in Turn 1.
Jake Kostecki (#56 Tradie Racing) came into the penultimate corner and lost to Scott Pye (#20 Nulon Racing) and Tickford Racing team-mate Cameron Waters (#6 Monster Energy Racing).
At the end of lap 1, it was De Pasquale who led Davison, Heimgartner, van Gisbergen, Chaz Mostert (#25 Mobil 1 Optus Racing), Mark Winterbottom (#18 Irwin Racing), David Reynolds (#26 Penrite Racing), Bryce Fullwood (#14 Middy’s Racing), Pye and Waters.
At the start of lap 2, Van Gisbergen sent out smoke signals when he got stuck under the brakes in Turn 1 while trying to find a way around Heimgartner.
Drama struck in round 2 when Jack Smith found the wall. Moments later, Brad Jones Racing would experience another dose of drama: hopes of a strong finish for hometown hero Fullwood were dashed when he made contact with Reynolds at the last corner on lap 1.
That sent the Grove Racing driver into a spin and with enough damage to force him into the pits. Fullwood was then given a 15-second penalty for the contact, which he served during his pit stop. He would eventually come home 17th.
Chaos continued on lap 3 as Brown got behind Pither, the pair went off the road in Turn 7. Pither would get a flat tire and miss a chance after starting 11th, while Brown suffered damage to his left front suspension that left him would reign out of battle. Pither eventually finished 24th.
In lap 10, Van Gisbergen managed to get rid of Heimgartner with a pass in the hairpin to occupy the last place of the podium.
Tim Slade’s attempt to further appropriate Garry Jacobson was undone after he entered Turn 5 and ran wide. That saw him give up places to Lee Holdsworth (#10 Penrite Racing) and Todd Hazelwood.
Heimgartner would lose it in the pit stop sequence and dropped out of the podium battle when he was undercut by Mostert entering the pits on lap 16 – two laps ahead of Heimgartner.
De Pasquale came in on lap 20 and returned to the race ahead of teammate Davison. That gave Van Gisbergen the lead, who chose to run longer.
At the end of lap 23, Van Gisbergen came to the track for his stop; choose to take three tires. Any benefit of taking the extra tire was hampered as the rear left tire changer struggled to fit its wheel. At the re-join, Van Gisbergen would come out behind Pye to finish seventh.
With the advantage of fresh rubber, the Kiwi quickly dispatched Pye and then his own teammate Broc Feeney (#88 Red Bull Ampol Racing) who had jumped to fifth place thanks to a particularly early pit stop.
Thomas Randle (#55 Castrol Racing) rode briefly into the lead, although he entered the pits quickly enough to give De Pasquale the lead with a 1.7 second pace over Davison. Third was Mostert, 3.0s adrift of the lead.
Heimgartner was a distant fourth, 5.9 seconds away when the field was cleared on lap 26. Van Gisbergen was quickly within striking distance to finish fourth and with 10 laps to go he cleared it in Turn 5.
Lap after lap, van Gisbergen ate in the margins of the leaders. With eight tours of Hidden Valley Raceway left, the gap was 4.7 seconds.
On lap 33, Van Gisbergen put himself on the podium with a pass to Mostert in Turn 6. That put Davison in Van Gisbergen’s crosshairs with just over five laps to go.
With three laps to go, Van Gisbergen came within striking distance of Davison. However, a pass did not come immediately. Indeed, Van Gisbergen’s hopes were nearly dashed when he wagged his tail under the brakes at Turn 5 on the penultimate lap.
In the end, Van Gisbergen could not clear Davison and settle for third place. At the top of the field, De Pasquale cleared the line 1.1 from the trailing pair.
Mostert fell shy of the podium and claimed fourth place, while Heimgartner took fifth.
The top 10 was completed by Winterbottom, Pye, Waters, Feeney and James Courtney.
Two qualifying sessions tomorrow will set the grid for Race 17 and Race 18, the first of which will start at 08:35 local time/09:05 AEST.
Results: Race 16, Merlin Darwin Triple Crown
|1||11||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Anton De Pasquale||Ford Mustang GT|
|2||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Will Davison||Ford Mustang GT||+1.1831|
|3||97||Red Bull Ampol Racing||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden ZB Commodore||+1.4784|
|4||25||Mobil 1 Optus Racing||Chaz Mostert||Holden ZB Commodore||+5.2558|
|5||8||R&J Batteries Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Holden ZB Commodore||+6.6768|
|6||18||Irwin Racing||Mark Winterbottom||Holden ZB Commodore||+14.4053|
|7||20||Nulon Racing||Scott Pye||Holden ZB Commodore||+18.3171|
|8||6||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Mustang GT||+19.3786|
|9||88||Red Bull Ampol Racing||Broc Feeney||Holden ZB Commodore||+23.9295|
|10||5||Snowy River Caravans||James Courtney||Ford Mustang GT||+24.4053|
|11||99||Boost Mobile Racing by Erebus||Brodie Kosteckic||Holden ZB Commodore||+24.9411|
|12||56||Tradie Racing||Jake Kosteckic||Ford Mustang GT||+25.4186|
|13||3||CoolDrive Racing||Tim Slade||Ford Mustang GT||+29.5790|
|14||34||Truck Assist Racing||Jack Le Brocq||Holden ZB Commodore||+33.5510|
|15||2||Mobil 1 NTI Racing||Nick Percat||Holden ZB Commodore||+33.5743|
|16||10||Penrite Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Ford Mustang GT||+34.0505|
|17||35||Truck Assist Racing||Todd Hazelwood||Holden ZB Commodore||+34.0774|
|18||27||East Coast Lubes||Jayden Ojeda||Holden ZB Commodore||+35.1375|
|19||14||Middy’s Electric Racing||Bryce Fullwood||Holden ZB Commodore||+35.3056|
|20||55||Castrol Racing||Thomas Randle||Ford Mustang GT||+39.1215|
|21||96||Kubota Racing||Macauley Jones||Holden ZB Commodore||+44.6432|
|22||78||Opposite lock||Bag Best||Ford Mustang GT||+58.7357|
|23||76||subway racing||Garry Jacobson||Holden ZB Commodore||+1:02.0793|
|24||22||Coca-Cola No Sugar Racing||Chris Pithero||Holden ZB Commodore||+1 round|
|25||4||SCT Logistics Racing||Jack Smith||Holden ZB Commodore||+3 laps|
|26||26||Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Ford Mustang GT||+7 laps|
|DNF||9||Boost Mobile Racing by Erebus||Will Brown||Holden ZB Commodore|
Fastest lap (bonus): Shane van Gisbergen, 1:07.2234s, lap 27
|1||Shane van Gisbergen||1467|
|2||Anton De Pasquale||1195|
|20||Jack Le Brocq||510|
|1||88||97||Triple Eight Race Technique||2410|
|2||11||17||Dick Johnson Racing||2305|
|5||2||25||Walkinshaw Andretti United||1680|
|8||8||14||Brad Jones Racing||1314|
|9||34||35||Matt Stone Racing||1258|
|10||4||96||Brad Jones Racing||987|
|13||3||Blanchard Racing Team||811|
|14||27||Walkinshaw Andretti United||124|
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