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THE RUNDOWN: Clipsal 500 race 2

If Saturday’s race had a few hot points amongst a more subtle strategic battle, Sunday’s second leg of the Clipsal 500 Adelaide was an absolute gloves-off fistfight, with every lap offering a new battle at some point throughout the field.

Another climactic Clipsal 500 finish also sets up a classic year ahead with DJR Team Penske looking truly competitive and both Walkinshaw Racing and Prodrive Racing Australia all looking – at least on Adelaide’s city streets – very respectable.

So it’s game on in 2017 – here’s the Race Torque Rundown for race two of the Supercars season.

Shane van Gisbergen’s Clipsal 500 victory came because of several reasons, only one of them his undisputed raw one-lap speed. Caught on the hop by McLaughlin’s early stop for fuel and subsequent track position advantage, van Gisbergen’s long-run pace was clearly the best of the field: He pegged a nine-second advantage down to less than one in the closing 20 laps, and showed the same speed all the way through the race as he worked his way back towards the front after giving up track position.

He then passed the Shell Ford with his other key strength: remarkable braking performance at turn nine. It was a trait shared by Whincup – who dived from 50 meters back to pass Cam Waters late in the day – and in the end it turned out to be the decisive advantage for the flying Kiwi.

Scott McLaughlin’s dejected visage in the cockpit post-race (‘I threw it away’) after out-braking himself in his battle with SVG summed up his feelings – but the Kiwi drove his heart out again and will ultimately be happy in the way he rebounded from his Safety Car miscue yesterday.

He also leaves Adelaide with the lap record: his 1m20.42s effort on lap 10 remaining unbeaten today.

Chas Mostert said post-race: ‘That was the hardest race I’ve ever done’.

The opening lap of the race saw turn eight claim two victims with two different results: Nick Percat belted the wall in the Clipsal-sponsored BJR machine, damaging the left front corner and sending him to the garage from sixth place.

A few positions further back, Garth Tander also gave the wall a serious shove – but where Percat hit the wall on an angle, Tander’s GRM Commodore went in square – leaving him with nothing more than a few red marks and a crease or two on the left hand side of his Commodore. You win some, you lose some.

South Aussies had challenging day, at least in the main game: Percat hit the fence. Slade missed turn 4 in the shootout and started 9th while Scott Pye had a sticking wheel nut in his first stop on lap six, dropping plenty of time in the second MHSV Racing car before ultimately finishing 19th.

Though Slade recovered with a strong drive to 7th in the Freightliner machine, it’s probably lucky Todd Hazelwood had such a cracking day in the Dunlop Super2 series.. more on that later.

Shane van Gisbergen’s first stop on Lap 17 elevated Garth Tander to the race lead – a point that will have no doubt put a smile on the dial of Garry Rogers Motorsport’s hard working crew after a massive off-season saw them build four new cars, following the Volvo debacle of last year. Both Tander and Moffat were more than solid at the Clipsal 500 and as the team gets a handle on their new Commodores they’re only going to get stronger.

The Shane van Gisbergen-versus-James Courtney battle between laps 32 and 34 was superb stuff – an absolute classic. It was hard, clean and fair but intensely competitive at the same time. The two Holdens ran side-by-side down the pit straight on 32, after both had clipped the grass on the braking zone into the final hairpin. That was repeated the following lap, as JC defended on the inside run to turn four, creating a classic Adelaide over-and-under battle through turns five and six.

Though van Gisbergen ultimately worked his way past on the 34th lap, the leaders margin had extended from four seconds to nine during the battle..

Consistency from Race Control: James Courtney’s apparent dumping of Simona DeSilvestro just before the lap 50 mark looked reasonably cut-and-dry, but a call to review the incident post-race backs up the methodology shown by Supercars new judiciary and race control operations in race one.

The group elected to do the same for Saturday’s Whincup-Winterbottom clash – one that initially looked like a Whincup penalty would be looming.

Their decision to class it a racing incident was welcomed by some as proof that race control will allow them to race hard this year, and while the Courtney-de Slivestro incident was a different style of clash, the choice to review post-race and give them a chance to gather all the available facts shows Race Control is doing what they can to show consistency at this early point of the season – something that will get them a pass-mark from many in pit lane.

2011 was the last time the Factory Holden team won back-to-back races. The newly named Red Bull Holden Racing Team won both races this weekend, and the last time the factory team achieved that was 2011, when James Courtney won race two in Abu Dhabi and Garth Tander won the Clipsal 500 opener that year. Tip of the hat to Tom Worsley for that fine stat!

The Sunday Top-10 shootout gave an opportunity to see the relative strengths and weaknesses of the leading cars in this year’s championship – and in particular offer a direct comparison between the Red Bull HRT cars and the Shell V-Power Racing Fords.

The Red Bulls had what looked to be an 0.2 to 0.3 second advantage through the Clipsal 500s ‘staircase’ – the run through turns 4,5,6 and 7 – however from there the advantage shifted back to the red and white Fords, who were better through the high-speed stuff. van Gisbergen’s pole lap saw him more than 0.25 seconds clear of Coulthard at the first timing intermediate: a margin that dipped to just 0.02 when he finished his lap a few kilometers later.

Tim Blanchard almost ‘did a Coulthard’ in the Cooldrive Holden, under-steering wide at the tight pit entry corner and making contact with the fence at almost the same point the Scottish Formula 1 ace did during Adelaide’s final Grand Prix – to much mirth from the Adelaide crowd at the time.

In the sage words of team boss Brad Jones, Blanchard ‘just didn’t turn right enough..’.

Taz Douglas did a stout job once again, filling in the drivers seat of the No. 3 LD Motorsport Holden – running as high as ninth during the first pit stop sequence before ultimately finishing 24th.

The current TV rights agreement will mean this next fact won’t have been mentioned this weekend – but did you know Taz was once a winner on TV game show, Deal or No Deal?

Friend of TheRaceTorque.com Loren Hazelwood reminded us of the fact today – and some googling confirmed that Taz won $75K on the show in late 2008. A fun fact that is unlikely to appear in the official Supercars records!

SUMMARY: That one was a classic, with everything that’s good about Supercars competition. Hard racing from go to woah, compelling storylines and a grandstand finish. More, please.

TEXT THE WINNER CAN SEND TONIGHT: ‘Hey mate, did your jandal slip of the brake pedal or something? SVG.’

FINALLY:

Thanks to Clipsal for their remarkable support of the Adelaide 500.

It’s going to be a hard tag to shake next year: ‘You going to Clip… err.. the 500 mate?’

WORDS: Richard Craill
IMAGES: Dirk Klynsmith Photograhy