Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast – for some, not least Red Bull Holden Racing Team star and defending Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen – it’s the best time of the year. But on Sunday at Sandown, the season of endurance started with a race that the Triple Eight entries endured rather than enjoyed – and all of the pre-race hopes of podium finishes and champagne-spraying fell flat.
Deflation was the name of the game at Sandown on Sunday, with SVG (paired with Matt Campbell) and the sister car of Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell both suffering punctures that scuppered any shot of a decent result for RBHRT in the year’s opening enduro.
For car 88, Dumbrell was at the controls and in the lead when the right rear tyre let go on lap 36, dropping the duo almost a minute behind the leaders before they fought back to sixth at the chequered flag.
And for car 97, Van Gisbergen was at the wheel with 20 laps left and in third place when a front right tyre let go as he approached Turn 1, forcing the Kiwi to limp back to the pits and come home in 15th place.
READ MORE: Live from Sandown Sunday
Team boss Roland Dane was matter-of-fact after the race – “it was ours to throw away, and we did” he told speecafe.com – while team manager Mark Dutton conceded that mistakes had been made in the set-up of both cars, although running over the kerbing at Turn 1 could have been a factor in Dumbrell’s demise.
Both regular drivers took a big hit with their small points hauls, Whincup falling to 84 points behind series leader Scott McLaughlin after the Kiwi teamed with Alex Premat to finish second behind Prodrive’s Cameron Waters and Richie Stanaway, who took their maiden Supercars victory.
J-Dub stays in second overall in the title chase, but this wasn’t a race he’ll be looking back on with any great fondness.
“We put on a good show up until the midway point, but unfortunately not our day,” Whincup said after starting the race from fourth on the grid.
“We made our way up and scored some solid points. ‘PD’ (Dumbrell) had a great drive, he led by four-and-a-half seconds, and we couldn’t have asked for anything more. We’ll find out the reasons for why the tyres are blowing out and make sure we don’t do it at Bathurst.”
Van Gisbergen’s late drama saw him drop to fifth overall in the championship, the Chaz Mostert/Steve Owen entry finishing third in the race, which promoted Supercheap Auto Racing regular Mostert to fourth overall after 19 races. With just seven races left, SVG now trails McLaughlin by 414 points, and he feels his title defence is likely done, telling supercars.com that “it obviously puts us out of it”.
“Today started really well, we had a good first lap and first stint,” he added.
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“Matty got in and did a great job, he didn’t lose too much time when the main guys got in, and we were about eight seconds off the lead. I got in and couldn’t catch the leaders, so I was conserving tyres and then it just popped. It’s a shame.”
SVG’s weekend woes weren’t restricted to Sunday either, as he copped a two-place grid penalty for contact with Fabian Coulthard in Saturday’s final practice session, meaning he and Campbell started from 21st on the grid. SVG made up eight places on lap one alone, but couldn’t add another Sandown podium to his second place in the first enduro of the year 12 months ago.
The scheduled 161-lap distance was reduced to a time-certain finish after a lap one red flag caused by a heavy crash for Taz Douglas at Turn 6, the delay to repair the tyre barrier taking over an hour and seeing the Waters/Stanaway entry take the win after 125 laps.
For the third pairing in the Triple Eight stable, Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards, Sandown was less eventful but equally frustrating, the TeamVortex pair finishing 11th after qualifying 23rd, a broken power steering rack seeing Lowndes forced to retire from Saturday’s qualifying race, his Sunday compromised before it began.
The good news for Triple Eight from Sandown? There’s still two endurance races remaining in the Pirtek Enduro Cup, the first of them at Bathurst on October 8 – and things can, surely, only get better…
By Matthew Clayton for redbull.com