The pain of missing out on a maiden Bathurst 1000 title clearly still lingers for Shane van Gisbergen, with the Holden star taking aim at this year’s controversial Great Race winner.
Van Gisbergen appeared to be focused on taking out this weekend’s Gold Coast 600 after finishing second fastest on the tough street circuit behind Ford’s Cam Waters at Friday’s practice.
However, the New Zealander admitted his Bathurst runner-up finish was still hard to swallow, almost two weeks after Supercars series leader Scott McLaughlin emerged triumphant following a safety-car controversy.
McLaughlin holds a 622-point championship lead over van Gisbergen for the Gold Coast round, having retained the Bathurst 1000 title despite his Ford outfit DJR Team Penske copping the biggest fine and points reduction in Supercars history for their Great Race tactics.
DJR Team Penske was fined $250,000 – albeit with $100,000 suspended until the end of 2021 – and was deducted 300 championship points after ordering McLaughlin’s teammate Fabian Coulthard to slow down during a late safety-car period at Mount Panorama.
The safety car “go slow” eliminated the fuel advantage of van Gisbergen who eventually finished second at Bathurst, just 0.68 of a second behind McLaughlin.
“Yeah I am still pretty angry,” van Gisbergen said after Gold Coast practice.
“It was pretty disappointing for the sport what they did – $150,000 (fine) and you get a trophy.”
Van Gisbergen looks set to take his frustration out on the Gold Coast circuit for Saturday’s opening 102-lap race.
“That’s how I am attacking it – flat out,” van Gisbergen warned.
McLaughlin can clinch the 2019 series title in race one if he places in the top three and van Gisbergen fails to finish – a real possibility on the concrete wall-lined Gold Coast track that has no margin for error.
But it appears McLaughlin has some homework to do overnight if he is to secure successive Supercars championships this weekend after battling to threaten the front-runners at Friday’s practice.
He finished the third and final session in seventh place in the 25-strong field, well behind pace setters Cam Waters and van Gisbergen.
Ford young gun Waters topped the time sheets by clocking one minute, 09.96 seconds ahead of van Gisbergen while seven-time series champion Jamie Whincup was third fastest.
McLaughlin was expected to dominate at the Gold Coast after claiming a record 18 race wins this season but admitted he was guilty on Friday of attacking the tough street circuit too aggressively.
“Today was about trying different things but I have been trying too hard – I have just got to tone it down a bit,” McLaughlin said.
There was only one red flag during the final 30-minute practice session after water was found on the track on turn three.
“It’s crazy stuff. Did someone have a bath and now it is on the track?” a bemused Whincup said.
Qualifying for the Gold Coast 600’s opening race starts at 9:40am on Saturday.