Opening laps don’t get more chaotic than this!
Shane van Gisbergen’s insipid drive to fourth in Race 31 of the Supercards championship on Sunday afternoon is proof he did not deserve to win the 2018 title.
Hear me out.
SVG’s aggression is what makes him so fascinating to watch. It makes him easy to love – and probably just as easy to hate if you support is tinged blue. Regardless of who you support, though, we can all agree his style has put bums on seats and fixed eyes to screens.
His win on Saturday afternoon was spectacular and well deserved and has left DJR Team Penske with egg on their faces. Declarations from the team – by Ryan Story to Fox Sports and also by the team’s official Twitter account – that Scott McLaughlin had enough fuel to comfortably make it home were clearly based on some funky calculations. Can you imagine if McLaughlin had lost the championship based on that moment? It would be Jamie Whincup at Bathurst 2014 all over again.
A post-race 25-second time penalty issued on Sunday morning for a pitstop infringement involving the fuel rig dropped him to fifth and blew the points deficit out from just two points to 53. Basically he had to win to give himself a realistic chance of winning the title.
Whether or not he deserved that penalty, whether or not it was fair on him and the team – or if it was fair on viewers robbed of a straight-up winner-takes-all fight between Holden and Ford – is a debate for another day, as is the issue of consistency in penalties issued by stewards.
If SVG won, McLaughlin still had to finish sixth to win the championship – no mean feat in a field as competitive as this.
What we should’ve seen was a fired-up SVG. Bold moves. Aggressive strategy. A nothing-to-lose attitude. Make Scotty earn his way to the title – after all, last year he had to finish only 11th, and we all know how that worked out.
What saw was a drive lacking that aggression and fire. He finished nearly 40 seconds behind McLaughlin with a car that appeared to be falling apart – nobody else suffered a busted inner guard like he did, and he got two of them. He had nothing to lose – surely he could have afforded to lick the stamp and send it once or twice.
I take nothing away from Scotty Mac and Penske. In front of Roger Penske himself, fresh from his NASCAR success with Joey Logano a week earlier, Scott drove almost the perfect race. He did what he had to do, and on any other day surely would’ve put up more of a fight against David Reynolds for the race win.
But he got a call from the top not to fight Reynolds, and he duly let him past up Watt Street on the way to turn two on lap 91. Four and a half laps later he sealed the crown and did one of the best doughnuts the series has seen.
There is no doubt SVG will be back in 2019 hungrier than ever. His international GT commitments will keep him sharp, as will his appearance at the Bathurst 12-hour alongside Whincup and Craig Lowndes in his final appearance as a full-time driver.
Adelaide will provide the perfect springboard for Van Gisbergen too – he’s swept the weekend in both 2017 and 2018.
Bring on 2019. And the Ponies.