An elated Shane van Gisbergen celebrates his Jason Richards Memorial Trophy triumph. (Image: Supercars/Twitter)

The Supercars field crossed the Tasman to New Zealand to bid their goodbyes to Pukekohe, in the final Supercars event at the track.

When they opened its doors in 1963, Pukekohe was home to motor racing for many codes. After 59 years in service, the track is due to shut at the completion of 2022.

Shane van Gisbergen stole the show, sealing his rights to the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy. The Kiwi fought tooth-and-nail to provide a fairytale farewell, winning both races on the Sunday.

All or nothing

Drivers were willing to put everything on the line in qualifying rounds, with many cars seen on the runoff. In Saturday’s Q1, Q2, Q3 format, three drivers gave it their all, unconventionally.

Will Brown and Brodie Kostecki gave their cars a wild ride around Pukekohe, taking to the dirt. Although their cars were unharmed, it was still a spectacle for everyone in the stands.

Thomas Randle’s moment was just as scary as he slid on the outskirts of the track. Randle somehow kept his car under control, after losing it momentarily.

Cam Waters eventually took pole position, in an intense battle with Will Davidson, who completed the front row. Championship leader van Gisbergen would start race 27 from P7.

NZ nightmares

The safety car was no stranger to Pukekohe by the weekend’s end, with multiple incidents across the weekend. A safety car was launched in each race, as more battles arose.

The first lap on race 27 was wild. Tim Slade and James Courtney locked horns, which sent Slade sideways. He was somehow able to keep it on the track, at the expense of track position.

Jake Kostecki was involved in drama once again, but this time it wasn’t his fault. When pitting, his rear-left tyre was loose and dismounted the car, forcing him to stop.

Macauley Jones brought out the safety car after an incident which left his steering all over the place. This provided a grandstand finish for race 27, which Davidson took out. Kiwi Andre Heimgartner came home in P2, with Waters completing the podium.

Anton de Pasquale was in the thick of it in race 28. He was jumped by multiple cars before he hit the wall on lap one. Unfortunately for him, the damage was enough to see him out of the race. However, the team worked in haste to have the car ready for the final race.

If de Pasquale’s incident wasn’t enough, Brown made sure the safety car came with a crash of his own. An entanglement with Mark Winterbottom left Brown bruised and in the wall.

In Pukekohe’s final Supercars race, James Courtney was caught between Jake Kostecki and Todd Hazelwood. He bounced off each of them before heading for the wall. He eventually retired from the race due to the damage.

Hazelwood also sustained damage during the incident. He was able to pit for repairs and continue.

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Final race frenzy

In Pukekohe’s farewell race, the fans were treated to a spectacle, as van Gisbergen hunted down Waters. With only 10 laps remaining, van Gisbergen had just taken P2, with only Waters in sight.

The two endured a massive battle with six laps left, which saw the lead changes hands momentarily. Waters held his own and charged toward the chequered flag.

Van Gisbergen remained valiant, only several laps later, came hunting again. After holding the lead for a mere second just three laps prior, van Gisbergen completed the move in style.

It was only fitting that a Kiwi would cap off Pukekohe with a victory, van Gisbergen leaving his mark with a flurry of donuts on the start-finish straight.

Fairytale finish

Van Gisbergen may have won the final race in style, but for the entire weekend he was in the thick of it. Not everything went his way to begin with, but he shifted the odds back into his favour as he always does.

It began with a P7 start ahead of race 27 on Saturday. Van Gisbergen climbed back to finish P5, narrowly missing the podium.

Sunday was a different story, as van Gisbergen got off to the best of starts, snatching pole for race 28. The championship leader led from start to finish to begin his comeback.

However, for race 29 – the finale, van Gisbergen qualified in P8, after being swamped by a swarm of cars late in the session. Little did he know the story that would follow from this result.

Van Gisbergen climbed his way up the order in the race. Misfortune for cars ahead made the job somewhat easier, nonetheless his skill was still on show.

With only three laps remaining at Pukekohe, van Gisbergen miraculously took the lead and stormed home to take the chequered flag.

Back-to-back wins allowed him to climb the leaderboard for the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy, and take what was rightfully his.

An elated van Gisbergen took the top step of the podium, with tears in his eyes. His championship hopes have only improved, as he now holds a 525-point lead over Waters.

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