The arrival of the Supercars at Surfers Paradise meant it was time to put to bed all the post-Bathurst 1000 controversies and go racing at the second round of the Enduro Cup.
From a sweeping of the two races by the Red Bull Holdens to the high-profile write-offs during the challenging weekend on the Gold Coast, here are the key talking points from two blockbuster races.
Triple Eight sweep the surfboards
It was a sweep of both races for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team at the Gold Coast 600, claiming a one-two finish on both Saturday and Sunday.
Race 26 was taken out by the veteran combo of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes after the latter made a strong start from the front row of the grid, blitzing past the polesitting Shell V-Power Mustang of Alex Prémat.
Lowndes then enjoyed a sensational stint with a five-second-plus advantage until he was switched out on lap 34, when Whincup then double stinted his way home to a ninth victory at Surfers Paradise.
Shane van Gisbergen and Garth Tander in the sister Red Bull Commodore secured second on the day, out-strategising the crew at DJR Team Penske, who had to settle for third with drivers Alex Premat and championship leader Scott McLaughlin.
The No. 97 did close in on the leading No. 888 car, though there were instructions from the team for Van Gisbergen not to pass teammate Whincup at the end of the race. The strategies were reversed on Sunday, with Van Gisbergen and Tander taking victory from pole.
Van Gisbergen took pole during the top-ten shootout, which was without McLaughlin due to his qualifying crash in which he wrote off his car, while the Whincup-Lowndes entry qualified second.
Supercars 2007 champion Tander started in the No. 97 car for Race 27 and led from lights to flag, with 2016 champion Van Gisbergen leading Whincup and Lowndes for a consecutive one-two finish.
Race 27 also saw the first Holden sweep of the podium in 2019 with the return to the rostrum for Erebus after a difficult Bathurst 1000. Luke Youlden made a better start than the Davison brothers Tickford car before a croaky David Reynolds brought the car home.
Teams championship still in play
The post-Bathurst sanctions for DJR Team Penske have been one of the biggest talking points in the build-up to the Gold Coast 600, and the punishments may have finally begun to sting after a difficult weekend for the championship leaders.
Shell V-Power Racing had 300 points stripped from their teams championship tally, which at the time didn’t seem like much given their significant lead over Triple Eight. But after McLaughlin failed to score in Race 27 and the No. 12 of Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto finished only ninth and 11th – plus the haul maximum points for the Red Bull racers – the team’s points lead has been cut to 132 points.
There are still 600 points on the table in the 2019 Supercars championship, including a mighty 300 on offer for victory at the final round of the Enduro Cup at the Sandown 500 before the season finale in Newcastle.
Red Bull are the reigning teams champions and have the chance of going back to back despite the drivers championship being all but out of reach for Van Gisbergen, who is McLaughlin’s closest rival at the top of the table.
Van Gisbergen and Tander also lead the Enduro Cup standings, having stood on the podium at every race so far in the season of endurance. Both have previously won the cup before, though not as a pair.
It’s a weekend that sees many crashes and damage done to cars every year, and 2019 was no different at the Gold Coast 600, with several major crashes, some of which even prematurely ended weekends for an unlucky few.
Championship leader and Bathurst 1000 winner Scott McLaughlin spectacularly binned his Shell V-Power Mustang during qualifying for the Sunday race, writing off his car and leaving him forced to sit out of the second leg of the event.
The Kiwi hit the concrete wall after exiting the first chicane, and the force of the 43G impact turned the car onto its side. It came to a stop at turn four, where recovery crews were deployed to attend to car and driver.
There were scenes of great sportsmanship too, with Van Gisbergen stopping his Red Bull Commodore to help his compatriot out of the car. Thankfully McLaughlin escaped without any serious injury and without too great a dent to his championship lead, having had a 613-point lead coming into Sunday.
Having been forced to sit out both races was the No. 55 Supercheap Auto Mustang of Chaz Mostert and James Moffat after provisional polesitter Mostert binned the car during the top-ten Shootout ahead of Race 26.
With the Tickford-prepared Mustang also deemed a write-off, the in-form pairing of Mostert and Moffat couldn’t defend their win at Surfers Paradise from 12 months ago, leaving both the Shell V-Power team and Tickford with significant rebuilds before the next event at Sandown.
Key top-ten results
There were several key top-ten finishes during the Gold Coast 600 weekend, chief among them Walkinshaw Andretti United, who were competitive on the streets of Surfers Paradise after their Bathurst podium.
The exceptional duo of Scott Pye and Warren Luff claimed dual top-five finishes across the weekend, having missed the opportunity on Sunday to claim a podium, which was ultimately taken by Reynolds and Youlden in the Erebus Commodore.
Despite missing out on the shootout, Pye and Luff still started from tenth after the Mostert entry was written off during that session – though both cars qualified in the shootout for Race 27 and claimed top-ten finishes, with the James Courtney and Jack Perkins car in ninth.
The remaining three Tickford cars also notched up top-ten results in both races despite not challenging for the podium. Cameron Waters and Michael Caruso in the Monster Energy Mustang were the best-placed Tickford car in the absence of the Supercheap Auto car, claiming fourth and fifth in the respective races.
Lee Holdsworth’s combination with rookie Thomas Randle has also proved to be fruitful, clinching a pair of sixth-place finishes, as a podium appearance still eludes Holdsworth in his first year as the pilot of the Bottle-O Ford.
GRM’s Supercars departure
Among the post-Bathurst dramas the racing entitlements contracts for 2020 were also locked in with Supercars with one notable omission in the form of Garry Rogers Motorsport.
A stalwart of the championship since 1996, the popular GRM squad will not be on the grid in 2020, citing sustainability problems within the championship for their failure to secure a budget for next season.
It was reported that their current title sponsor, Boost Mobile, had been pushing Supercars to bring forward the introduction of a control upright component, which Supercars is set to introduce beyond 2020.
Without the control uprights and not meeting performance benchmarks, Boost was set to withdraw its sponsorship of GRM in the middle of a two-year deal, leaving the Victorian-based Holden team with no title sponsor.
While they will race on in the new TCR Australia championship and S5000 category, Supercars will be a little lesser without the flamboyance of father-son team owners Garry and Barry Rogers.
Among that, the team stood down 2017 Sandown 500 winner Richie Stanaway for disciplinary reasons ahead of Race 27, replacing him with Super2 racer Dylan O’Keefe. Stanaway has endured a troubled season at GRM since his frosty departure from Tickford last year, having missed three rounds earlier with back problems.
And the No. 34 car of James Golding and Richard Muscat was eliminated on the first lap of Race 27 in a multi-car incident involving one of the Erebus cars, Todd Hazelwood and two of Brad Jones Racing Holdens.