SHANE van Gisbergen is the new Supercars’ championship points leader heading into the endurance season.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver won Saturday’s 100-kilometre opener at Tailem Bend, before following up with a second on Sunday.
His teammate Jamie Whincup ensured it was a one-two finish for the factory Holden squad on Sunday, winning the 200-kilometre race in dominant fashion after finishing fourth the day prior.
Dubbed ‘Australia’s Nurburgring’ the $120 million Tailem Bend facility impressed, with over 40,000 fans turning up for the track’s Supercars debut.
The V8 Touring Cars didn’t run on the full 7-kilometre-plus GT circuit, instead running the shorter ‘National’ layout.
Drivers were challenged by the flowing but technical course, and many struggled to stay on track during Friday practice.
Nissan had a positive day on Saturday with Rick Kelly and Michael Caruso finishing second and third for the opening race.
David Reynolds impressed on Sunday, finishing on the podium behind the Red Bull duo.
Scott McLaughlin’s weekend was one to forget, with a fifth and 10th place finish a disappointing result for himself and the DJR Team Penske team.
DJRTP principal Ryan Storey admitted McLaughlin’s struggles were linked to the hard tyres being used for the weekend, with the team unable to find the setup sweet spot.
The admission is worrying news for Ford fans with the Bathurst 1000 looming, where hard tyres are mandatory.
McLaughlin’s woes meant his 89-point championship lead at the start of the weekend was completely obliterated come Sunday afternoon.
The harder tyre choice also meant tyre degradation was almost non-existent, hampering the on-track action during the event.
Van Gisbergen now heads into the endure season as the championship leader, with 19 point in hand over McLaughlin.
Whincup is third, 362 points behind his teammate, while Lowndes is fourth and 549 points adrift. Reynolds rounds out the top five in the championship with a 565-point deficit to the leader.
The two championship protagonists got into a stoush during qualifying for the opening race, with McLaughlin baulking van Gisbergen who was on a flying lap, before the Holden driver returned the favour.
With less than 20 points separating the pair, the pressure will be on for the start of the endures at the Sandown 500 next month.
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