02/03/2024

Shane van Gisbergen takes his second of three chequered flags of the weekend. (Image: Supercars/Twitter)

Red Bull Ampol Racing’s Shane van Gisbergen has completed a second consecutive clean sweep, this time at The Bend.

Despite not dominating in qualifying for the entirety of the weekend, van Gisbergen made the most of his race pace to extend his championship lead.

The weekend provided some results that saw some unfamiliar faces toward the front of the grid. The weather went from good to bad to worse as each race progressed.

Here is what happened at The Bend:

Zak has ‘Best’ performance

Tickford Racing’s Zak Best sealed a surprise podium during race 21 qualifying. After securing the fourth-fastest time in Q2, Best set the quickest time in the top-10 shootout.

In what could be one of the stories of the season, Best achieved his first pole position in surprising fashion. Best’s 1:47.81 was enough to displace van Gisbergen to P2, by 0.02 seconds.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Best said post-qualifying.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed, I didn’t expect to see all these cameras at this end of pit-lane. It’s so surreal, I don’t know what to say.”

Best led for the start of the race, jumping van Gisbergen once the lights were out. After a few position shuffles, van Gisbergen found himself back in familiar territory on lap 11 – taking the lead of the race.

Due to superior pit-stop strategies, Best began to trip down the order. Will Davidson, Cam Waters and Chaz Mostert all opted for earlier stops.

He still managed to finish the race in P5, beating his previous best finish of P15 at Bathurst in 2021.

Thomas Randle squanders massive opportunity

Tickford Racing enjoyed more success, when Thomas Randle secured his highest qualifying position of his career, starting from P2 for race 22. He only finished race 22 qualifying just 0.07 seconds shy of Waters on pole position.

His teammate Waters took another pole position, the 10th straight pole position taken by a Mustang driver. Waters also eventually took pole position for race 23, making it 11 races straight for a Mustang driver.

What was a hopeful beginning for Randle, turned into his worst nightmare. Randle stalled at the race start and he watched the rest of the grid pass by.

That was until Andre Heimgartner, who was unaware of the stationary Randle, hit the rear of Randle at an estimated 150km/h.

Both drivers miraculously walked away from the frightening incident. The accident called for the race to be red flagged, then for the race to have a complete restart.

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Chaz Mostert makes the most of the restart

Following the incident between Randle and Heimgartner, the grid was forced to the pit-lane while the mess was cleaned up.

A full restart was issued, as the drivers took to their original grid positions, despite Randle and Heimgartner being out of the race.

Mostert, who began in P6, had arguably the best start of the entire season. He shifted forward five positions, into P1 by the first turn.

His lead was short-lived as van Gisbergen made his way back through the field. Mostert was still able to turn P6 into a podium – finishing P2.

Wet weather racing causes a stir

Cars were all over the place, as rain caused havoc in race 23. Not only were some entertaining battles producing a spectacle for viewers, but excitement was withdrawn as unpredictability stepped in.

Race 23 started under a safety car for obvious reasons. Rain continued to pour and after two laps behind the safety car, Waters had the field underway.

Waters, van Gisbergen, Broc Feeney and Anton de Pasquale all fought for the lead in the opening laps. The lead switched hands every few corners.

While some clean racing was seen at the front of the grid for the lead of the race, the opposite was seen elsewhere.

Will Davidson and Mostert made slight contact and due to the conditions, both went off. Mostert was given a 15-second time penalty for his troubles.

Teammates Jack Le Brocq and Todd Hazelwood also unfortunately made contact, which saw both cars drifting off the track on the same lap.

Shane van Gisbergen cleans up

For the second race weekend running, van Gisbergen has won every race, this time going back-to-back-to-back.

Like the previous event, van Gisbergen didn’t take a single pole position. Yet, he let his race pace do the talking, overcoming every obstacle.

Whether it was a crash ahead or rain, van Gisbergen was able to either avoid it or use his ability to manipulate it, justifying his championship status.

105 points were awarded for each race win, and the 315 points allowed van Gisbergen to extend his lead in the championship once again.

With five events remaining, van Gisbergen is now 393 points clear of Waters, who moved up and into second, surpassing de Pasquale.

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