Aus­tralian Su­per­cars; NASCAR Cup; TC2000

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - AN­DREW VAN LEEUWEN

JAMIE WHIN­CUP WILL HEAD INTO THE fi­nal Su­per­cars round of the sea­son with a 30-point se­ries lead af­ter win­ning the Ja­son Richards Tro­phy in New Zealand.

The Red Bull Holden driver backed up a fourth place from Satur­day’s open­ing 200-kilo­me­tre race at Pukekohe with a con­trolled win over chief ti­tle ri­val and lo­cal hero Scott Mclaugh­lin on Sun­day af­ter­noon, setting up a thrilling ti­tle show­down ahead of the fi­nale in New­cas­tle (that’s the New South Wales New­cas­tle, as op­posed to the Ge­ordie one) later this month.

The pair were in­sep­a­ra­ble all week­end; on Satur­day they spent the first two stints scrap­ping for the lead, the bat­tle get­ting phys­i­cal enough that then-leader Whin­cup was at one point slapped with a bad sports­man­ship flag for shut­ting the door on the DJR Penske Ford.

As it tran­spired, it was all for third spot at best. A late cau­tion changed the run­ning or­der at the top of the field, and Mclaugh­lin and Whin­cup were baulked as they came up on the safety car af­ter mak­ing their stops. The de­lay was enough to let Shane van Gis­ber­gen – in the sis­ter Triple Eight-run Holden to Whin­cup’s – and Mark Win­ter­bot­tom (Pro­drive Ford), both of whom stopped a lap later, to get the jump.

With Mclaugh­lin leapfrog­ging Whin­cup in the stops, the points leader was re­signed to fourth spot at the end of play on Satur­day.

A day later, Whin­cup and Mclaugh­lin were at it again, lock­ing out the front row for the sec­ond 200km race. This time they were in a class of their own, Whin­cup pre­vail­ing in a tense bat­tle over Mclaugh­lin to stretch his points ad­van­tage back out to 30 and se­cure the prized Ja­son Richards Tro­phy.

It was a week­end when the ti­tle fight ef­fec­tively be­came a two-horse race, with a se­ries of bizarre in­ci­dents leav­ing van Gis­ber­gen, Fabian Coulthard and Chaz Mostert with lit­tle more than math­e­mat­i­cal hopes.

While van Gis­ber­gen made a strong start to the week­end with vic­tory on Satur­day, it quickly un­rav­elled on Sun­day. Com­ing in to make his first stop on lap 16, van Gis­ber­gen ploughed into the back of Tim Slade at pit en­try.

The dam­age took 14 laps to fix, the re­sult­ing 24th spot leav­ing him 276 points off Whin­cup with just 300 up for grabs in New­cas­tle.

Mostert fared even worse. On Satur­day, the Pro­drive Ford man copped a driv­ethrough for run­ning into David Reynolds and dropped a heap of points. And on Sun­day, while run­ning third on the open­ing lap, he was an in­no­cent by­stander in a shunt be­tween his team-mates Win­ter­bot­tom and Cam Wa­ters.

Mostert did man­age to go from fac­ing back­wards on the first lap to fin­ish­ing an

im­pres­sive sev­enth, but will need to claw back 264 points in New­cas­tle.

Coulthard, mean­while, en­dured the most heart­break­ing week­end of the con­tenders.

Hav­ing come into the round just 17 points off Whin­cup, his hopes took a se­ri­ous beat­ing when he ended up on his roof on Satur­day.

The DJR Penske Ford driver was caught up in that Mostert/reynolds clash, run­ning across the front of a re­cov­er­ing Reynolds as he looked to pounce on the pair. Both Reynolds and Coulthard ended up off the road, Coulthard’s car bounc­ing into the wall and rolling over.

It took an all-night re­pair to fix the car, a lack of spares due to it be­ing an over­seas race mean­ing the team had to weld a bor­rowed race car roof tur­ret to one from a road car to make it fit the FG-X Fal­con.

All things con­sid­ered, Coulthard’s drive to fifth on Sun­day was im­pres­sive enough, but he’s now 176 points be­hind Whin­cup.

RE­SULTS

Race 1 1 Shane van Gis­ber­gen (Holden Com­modore) 66 laps in 1h23m58.8115s; 2 Mark Win­ter­bot­tom (Ford Fal­con) +0.8172s; 3 Scott Mclaugh­lin (Ford); 4 Jamie Whin­cup (Holden); 5 Ja­son Bright (Ford); 6 Tim Slade (Holden). Race 2 1 Whin­cup 70 laps in 1h17m11.7118s; 2 Mclaugh­lin +5.9059s; 3 Cameron Wa­ters (Ford); 4 Craig Lown­des (Holden); 5 Fabian Coulthard (Ford); 6 Garth Tan­der (Holden).

Points 1 Whin­cup 2850; 2 Mclaugh­lin 2820; 3 Coulthard 2674; 4 Chaz Mostert 2586; 5 van Gis­ber­gen 2574; 6 Lown­des 2160.

Bat­tle be­tween Whin­cup and Mclaugh­lin stole the show on Sun­day

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