Supercars enjoyed its annual winter vacation, escaping the cold of the southern states of Australia to the Northern Territory for yet another eventful Darwin…
Another popular addition to the Supercars championship makes its long-awaited return to the schedule for the first time since 2019 in the form of Wanneroo Raceway and the Perth SuperNight.
Night racing returned to the challenging Western Australian circuit for the opening 46-lap sprint of the weekend, with another two exciting races following on Sunday. From a drought-breaking victory, to a first win out West, here are the talking points from the Perth SuperNight.
Van Gisbergen breaks Perth duck
Coming into the Perth SuperNight, it had been well-publicised that the reigning Supercars champion and current championship leader had not won a race at Wanneroo Raceway, a statistic that is bemusing to those who know Van Gisbergen for the dominant racer that he is, but it was indeed fact.
Starting from third in Saturday night’s Race 10 behind a pair of fast Ford Mustangs, van Gisbergen executed what he’s known so well and went on to steal the win from Anton De Pasquale.
Marking what was also Holden’s 600th win in Australian touring car history, Van Gisbergen went deep into the opening stint on his starting tyres and was pitted on Lap 32 in the 46-lap sprint. The Kiwi rejoined the race behind De Pasquale and Cameron Waters, who both had pitted very early.
On fresher tyres with only a third of the race distance remaining, van Gisbergen was able to push hard and breeze past the two Mustangs – embarrassing them as he has done so far in this 2022 championship.
De Pasquale did in fact offer some resistance to the Red Bull Commodore, however with the tyres advantage that Van Gisbergen possessed, there was no point in holding back the inevitable that would be a pass from the reigning champion.
Embarrassing too was the fact Van Gisbergen nurtured his tyres around the brutal Wanneroo Raceway in the first stint and was also quick enough to set the fastest lap of the race and collect the extra five points on offer.
Davison breaks winless drought, Waters penalised
A controversial conclusion to the red-flagged Race 11 of the championship saw Will Davison break his winless drought in Supercars dating back to the 2016 Bathurst 1000 which he won at Tekno Autosports.
Starting on pole position once again, Davison was beaten off the line by the Monster Energy Mustang of Waters before a red flag suspended the race at the end of Lap 3. After a lengthy pause to repair the damaged gate on the pit-wall, the race restarted with Waters ahead.
The Tickford racer opened up a two-second lead over veteran Davison heading into the pit-stop phase, which the Shell V-Power team initiated for the leaders of Lap 24. A quick change of tyre and out-lap for Davison beat that of Waters on the following lap.
Davison with pace and grip had the run on Waters coming out of Turn 6 and down the hill, before attempting the pass at the final corner. Waters utilised the run-off on the outside of the kerb to come back down the pit-straight in the lead, which caught the ire of Davison.
Race Control however on Lap 34 sent a five-second time penalty the way of the Monster Energy Mustang for an unsafe re-entry, something which Waters blew up over, citing lack of penalties at that corner in the past.
Much like his 2016 Bathurst 1000 win, Davison crossed the line in second and benefitted from the leading driver being penalised – winning also Ford’s first race in 2022 ahead of teammate De Pasquale and Brad Jones Racing’s Andre Heimgartner.
Aggressive Tickford strategy almost earns Courtney win
Davison was not the only driver in Perth who had been winless since 2016 and in contention to break that drought, as Tickford driver James Courtney worked himself into a position for an unlikely win in Race 12.
Starting from eighth, the 2010 Supercars champion found himself amidst a gaggle of cars fighting in the top ten early on. All before Tickford opted for an aggressive strategy, by pitting Courtney early and undercutting most of the field.
At the front of the field, pole sitter Van Gisbergen was fighting with Davison who nailed the better start and was leading the race. The Kiwi was brought in to pit at the end of Lap 25 and Davison followed on the next lap.
The squabbling duo both rejoined the race behind the surprise contender in Courtney, and while the Red Bull Commodore was yet to pass the Shell V-Power Mustang – 41-year-old Courtney opened up a two-second lead.
Once Van Gisbergen was ahead of Davison, it took the championship leader until Lap 40 to catch and pass the Tickford Mustang of Courtney for the lead. The margin then extending in Van Gisbergen’s favour, despite a late Safety Car intervention to see him win and extend his championship lead.
Courtney held on for second, fending off Davison and De Pasquale and claimed his first podium since Sydney Motorsport Park late in the 2021 season. An encouraging result for the veteran after being spun out of podium contention at Albert Park by Chaz Mostert and the win lost by teammate Waters in Race 11.
Pye shunted again
Scott Pye found himself in another almighty shunt at Wanneroo Raceway, this time being turned into the pit-wall by Jack Le Brocq and prematurely ending his running on the Sunday of the Perth SuperNight.
On the opening lap, Pye qualified 20th and found himself battling with the Matt Stone Racing Commodore of Le Brocq, who qualified 15th. Pye exited the final corner onto the main-straight ahead of the former Super2 champion and sought to cover his line across the track heading into Turn 1.
Le Brocq continued to follow Pye as he darted across the track to the side of the pit-lane, to the point where despite the slightest of overlaps, there was no room left on the track for the Truck Assist Commodore could go around the Team 18 car.
Contact to the rear of Pye’s car saw the Nulon Commodore turned and spin into the pit-wall, damaging the wall heavily and triggering a lengthy red flag stoppage. Thankfully Pye was unharmed in the incident, however the car was written off for the rest of the weekend.
This was sadly not the first time Pye has experienced a major shunt in Perth, having during his rookie season in 2013 been sent flying across the grass over the hill coming down the back straight.
“I thought I was clear and tried to defend, but obviously I wasn’t, but f—, he just didn’t lift,” was Pye’s raw reaction upon being asked during the broadcast when the race was red flagged.
All-Kiwi wildcard coming to Bathurst
Another piece of collateral amidst the border closures in 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic was the proposed all-Kiwi wildcard for the Bathurst 1000 fielded by Erebus and funded by Boost Mobile.
However, with things on the up in 2022 and the trans-Tasman border open, Erebus Motorsport confirmed ahead of the Perth SuperNight that four-time Bathurst 1000 champion Greg Murphy and Sandown 500 winner Richie Stanaway would be tackling The Mountain this year.
Forty-nine-year old Murphy last raced in Supercars back in 2014, where he was co-driver to Courtney at the former Holden Racing Team, now Walkinshaw Andretti United. Since then, the 28-time race winner has had a number of practice sessions with multiple Supercars teams.
Stanaway, now 30, meanwhile unceremoniously concluded his full-time Supercars career in 2019 after two lacklustre seasons and had seemingly walked away from motorsport – until now, that is.
The former GP2 Series race winner and factory Aston Martin GT World Endurance driver brought such promise to Supercars, when he performed superbly to win the Sandown 500 with Waters in 2017 – but failed to recapture that spark during his solo stints with both Tickford and Garry Rogers Motorsport.
While it’s too early to make predictions, seeing this combination is exciting and with a strong Commodore prepared by Erebus, who are known to have fast cars at Mount Panorama, there is the potential for a solid showing from Murphy and Stanaway.