Round five of the 2022 Supercars championship is done and dusted, with an exciting return to regional Victoria and the historic Winton Motor Raceway for the first time since 2019.
Home track advantage was on minds in regard to Victorian teams such as Tickford, who are well acclimatised to this track with their testing, though that didn’t stop the championship leader from taking a slice of the Winton pie.
From more close battles between old foes, to standout team performances on home soil here are the talking points from the Winton SuperSprint.
Waters bests SVG at last
Cameron Waters kept it cool under extreme pressure from Shane van Gisbergen in the dying stages of Race 13, to take out the opener of the Winton SuperSprint and win his first race of the season.
A first victory since Townsville last year, Waters launched himself into the lead at the start of the race ahead of polesitter van Gisbergen. The championship leader then hounded the Monster Energy Mustang for the duration of the 36-lap sprint, though the 26-year old sustained the challenge.
Heading into the pit-stop phase, Red Bull brought the reigning Supercars champion in on Lap 15 to undercut Waters, however Tickford reacted on the following lap to ensure that their driver retained the lead of the race.
Having had minimal distance between the two for the balance, van Gisbergen at the final corner made the bold lunge for the lead, but ended up making minor contact and had to withdraw altogether.
The result would be a welcome one for Waters and Tickford, who’ve been without victory since Race 19 in Townsville. Given the criticism too of Waters in battling van Gisbergen in earlier races, most chiefly at Symmons Plains where little defence was offered – the display in Race 13 was exactly the style of racing needed to beat the Kiwi.
Unfortunate too was Waters to miss out at Wanneroo Raceway, when he was penalised for re-joining the track unsafely coming out of the final corner – when battling Will Davison for what would’ve been Ford’s first win of 2022.
SVG returns serve
Waters in Race 14 had pole position ahead of van Gisbergen and was able to execute the better start, leading the reigning Supercars champion in the opening stint.
Van Gisbergen dropped into the clutches of a chasing pack, led by Chaz Mostert and David Reynolds, having struggled to stay tucked in behind the leading Monster Energy Mustang as he did in the Saturday race.
Red Bull once again went for the undercut on Lap 16, triggering Tickford to bring Waters in on the following lap. With tyres up to temperature, van Gisbergen sought to get one back on the Ford driver after Race 13 and came in hot into Turn 1.
Waters hopped across the Turn 1 kerb and then parked his car in the middle of the sequence of opening corners, though the Kiwi had the run out of Turn 2 and cut across to the inside line and was able to nail the pass into Turn 3.
Any room afforded to van Gisbergen will see the two-time champion take advantage and unfortunately for Waters, he left just enough of a gap for the Red Bull Commodore to barge through for a 63rd career win.
Three tyres versus two
A variation in strategy between Tickford and the Red Bull Ampol Racing set up a thrilling conclusion to the Winton SuperSprint weekend, with Waters coming through another win in Race 15.
Another strong start from pole saw the Monster Energy Mustang catapult away into the lead, as van Gisbergen found himself being harassed by Brad Jones Racing’s André Heimgartner and eventually losing second for the first half of the race.
On this occasion, Waters was brought in for a pit-stop ahead of van Gisbergen for the traditional two-tyre change. The Kiwi pitted several laps later, however gambled to take three new supersoft tyres, which saw the grip advantage in favour of the Red Bull Commodore.
Battling with Heimgartner after the pit-stops, the Kiwi conceded when it was evident that van Gisbergen was faster with fresher tyres. Clawing back a hefty margin to Waters, van Gisbergen set up a final lap showdown as on Saturday – however the Tickford racer had just enough of a margin to take the win.
Heimgartner’s third placing added to the podium he picked up in Perth for Brad Jones Racing, while in the championship van Gisbergen continues to lead by 281-points over an anonymous Anton De Pasquale in Winton.
A first ever solo round win for Waters, also bolstered his position in the standings to third and with a margin of 333-points to the reigning Supercars champion out front.
Grove takes advantage of home track
Behind Waters’ obvious standout performance to take his first solo round win, at Tickford’s home track, it was Grove Racing that as a collective that stood out at their home testing circuit.
Victorian teams had the boost this weekend of being able to race at the track that they conduct their testing at, so naturally it was thought that there’d be a form of home field advantage for these outfits.
The real winner behind Waters was Penrite Mustang duo David Reynolds and Lee Holdsworth, with top six finishes for both drivers across the round – as well as a pair of podiums for 2017-Bathurst 1000 winner Reynolds.
Reynolds lamented their inability to qualify on the front-row, as their shortcoming in being able to fight the likes of Waters and van Gisbergen for the wins in Winton. Though besting the more established Victorian names such as Walkinshaw and Erebus, and even the Shell V-Power squad made the Braeside operation winners in this respect.
Quietly, the 36-year old sits in fifth in the championship only 52-points adrift of Shell V-Power’s Will Davison ahead. Holdsworth meanwhile is a whisker away from the top-ten, 12-points behind Tickford’s James Courtney.
In terms of the team’s championship, the congested order from fourth to sixth sees just two-points separate Erebus Motorsport, Grove Racing and Walkinshaw Andretti United. With Grove’s change in mindset, they have reason to believe they could sit atop that pile if they continue to be consistent.
Walkinshaw’s shock switch to Ford
Despite this announcement having broken following the Perth round of the championship, its significance still warrants discussion given how entrenched Walkinshaw’s history in Supercars is with the General Motors brand.
Walkinshaw Andretti United will field two Ford Mustangs at the commencement of the Gen3 regulations in 2023, bringing an end to such a rich relationship in which the Victorian outfit was once the proud factory Holden Racing Team.
Though having been without championship glory for well over a decade, it seems the right call for the heavyweight triumvirate to pursue another manufacturer and look to take that next step to being a championship contender once again.
The Perth SuperSprint was one of the team’s worst in recent history, as neither Chaz Mostert or Nick Percat could qualify inside the top twenty. Two-time Bathurst 1000 winner Mostert did bounce back at Winton, however a weekend best of fourth was still not enough by comparison to the championship leaders.
All while Percat’s best result at Winton was only fourteenth, as the former Bathurst champion continues to struggle to qualifying the Walkinshaw Commodore.
It remains to be seen until 2023 if this decision can be vindicated with results, but for the sake of diversity too on the grid, there will be 11 Mustangs now against 14 Chevrolet Camaros. The move by WAU has also denied Matt Stone Racing the opportunity to align themselves to Ford, as the Blue Oval has stated they’re not looking to add any more teams to the grid at present.