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Dream Sunday for Red Bull

The historic Sandown Raceway played host to the ninth round of the 2022 Supercars championship and while the results weren’t quite as varied as the track surfaces on the 3.1-kilometre circuit, there was still some excellent racing.

From seeing the Bathurst 1000 co-drivers hit the track for the first time, to the ongoing arm wrestle between the sport’s top two teams and some more broken records for the reigning champion, here are the Sandown SuperSprint talking points.

‘Dream run’ for Davison in Race 24

It was a crushing victory for Will Davison in opening race of the Sandown SuperSprint, marching from a record-breaking pole position to a first win at the Victorian racecourse since 2009.

A second win of 2022 for the 39-year-old came with a 8.5-second margin over championship leader Shane van Gisbergen, who struggled to extract the race pace from his Red Bull Commodore which has seen him devastate much of the season.

Executing a strong start saw Davison well ahead of van Gisbergen into Turn 1, while the Kiwi jostled for second with Erebus’ Will Brown. There was contact too between Broc Feeney and Andre Heimgartner at Turn 9, for which the Kiwi was penalised 15 seconds for.

Anton De Pasquale, who qualified fourth, went for an aggressive strategy by pitting on Lap 12 in an attempt to undercut the leaders. This saw him pip Brown and shuffle in behind van Gisbergen after their pit-stops on Lap 17.

Davison, meanwhile, was safe to pit a lap later and then continued his untroubled run to the chequered flag, sweetening the news from earlier in the week about his future at Dick Johnson Racing – as well as new ownership of the team.

Red Bull have their own dream Sunday

It wasn’t long before Red Bull Ampol Racing bounced back and took the top honours on Sunday, as van Gisbergen swept the two remaining 36-lap races as well as taking pole position for Race 25.

Misfortune plagued the Shell V-Power squad, as Davison’s qualifying run ahead of the first Sunday race was aborted with an electrical fire causing the cabin of his Mustang to smoke up. The team were quick to rectify the problem with such a short turnaround to the second stage of qualifying, where the Race 24 winner was back on pole.

The great pace of Davison’s Mustang was to be unseen in Race 25, after he was hit with a penalty for a pit-stop infringement. All while van Gisbergen had the company of Chaz Mostert up front in the early stages.

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Pitting seven laps later than the Mobil 1 Optus Commodore, van Gisbergen cruised to a 7.5 second win over Mostert. Erebus’ Will Brown took a belated third-place finish, his first of 2022 having dispatched David Reynolds in the closing phase of the race.

Race 26 saw Davison and van Gisbergen go toe-to-toe in the opening laps, with the Shell V-Power Mustang defending hard from the Kiwi’s advances. Eventually the Red Bull Commodore got its way at Turn 6, though made a mistake at Turn 11 to allow Davison the opportunity to retake the lead.

However, De Pasquale behind was launched onto two wheels having made contact with his teammate. This was the moment Davison thought he could wrestle back the lead, as then despite staying in pursuit was unable to pass.

The long first stint wasn’t enough for Davison to do ‘a van Gisbergen’, by overcutting the leaders and instead had to settle for second, with Red Bull teammate Broc Feeney earning a second career podium.

Another round of records for SVG

It wouldn’t be a round of the Supercars championship without waxing lyrical about the reigning champion and current standings leader, following another two victories on Sunday for van Gisbergen.

Having now won five out of the last six races at Sandown, the steadfast Kiwi has achieved his 70th career victory – putting him in the esteemed company of Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife as the only drivers in the history of the sport to do so.

The 33-year-old with his Race 26 win notched up a 16th win of the season to equal another Lowndes record set back in 1996 – which until 2019 was the most individual wins for a driver in a single season. Eighteen wins is the current record, held by Scott McLaughlin.

Only eight races remain in the 2022 championship, thus meaning that McLaughlin’s incredible achievement from only three years ago is close to being eclipsed, given the sensational form that van Gisbergen is currently in.

500 points is the enormous margin that the Kiwi will take with him from Sandown, into the next round which will be on his home soil in New Zealand. Supercars too will farewell Pukekohe, with the iconic venue set to cease motorsport activity from 2023.

New era for DJR

Dick Johnson Racing was in the headlines in the build-up to the Sandown SuperSprint, having announced that not only was it retaining their incumbent drivers for the 2023 season – but also a new co-owner.

Davison and De Pasquale are set to continue piloting the Shell V-Power Mustangs into the Gen3 era, signalling great faith within the veteran and the young gun as Supercars undergoes its most significant change in technical regulations for decades.

Whilst De Pasquale’s position was all but assured, there was conjecture over two-time Bathurst 1000 winner Davison’s future with the legendary Ford squad. However that was quashed when potential suitor in Brown was secured by Erebus on a fresh deal.

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

As for the ownership change at DJR, Melbourne Aces Baseball Club owner Brett Ralph has bought into the Queensland outfit in a similar way to the powerhouse Penske organisation had between 2015 and 2020. Dick Johnson and Ryan Story, the team’s current co-owners, will continue in their roles as well as retain their shares.

New investment in the team highlights how attractive an outfit the Shell V-Power Racing team is, despite not having had the same form in the Supercars championship as it did in the later years of the DJR Team Penske era.

Following Penske’s departure at the end of 2020, as well as triple Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin, Davison and De Pasquale have been regular front runners with often the best qualifying speed. Though they’ve lacked the race pace and sharpness of Triple Eight and van Gisbergen.

Whincup tops co-driver session

Co-drivers for the Bathurst 1000 were given their one and only opportunity to get behind the wheel of their Supercars, with a 30-minute session on the Friday ahead of the Sandown SuperSprint.

Seven-time Supercars champion and current Red Bull team boss in Whincup brushed off the cobwebs to go out and set the fastest time of the session, with a 1:08.230 aboard Feeney’s Commodore.

Thirty-nine-year-old Whincup was followed almost three-tenths behind by fellow Red Bull co-driver Garth Tander, who’ll once again link up with van Gisbergen. Chaz Mostert’s new co-driver in Fabian Coulthard too was within three-tenths of the leading car.

Lowndes, who’ll be spearheading another Supercheap Auto backed wildcard for Triple Eight with rookie Declan Fraser, also got the opportunity to partake in the session despite not having the wildcard car permitted. The seven-time Bathurst 1000 champion did get to steer a Brad Jones Racing Commodore instead, whilst Jack Smith remains without a co-driver.

With the Bathurst 1000 now a round away, co-driver and commentator Tander lashed out at Supercars for their “incredibly unfair” endurance racing format.

“I feel sorry for the other co-drivers that don’t have the experience of the three of us sitting up here. Having a 500-kilometre race prior to Bathurst is important,” said the former Supercars champion, referring to the experience of the three fastest drivers in that session.

The disparity is evident between co-drivers when it comes to the Bathurst 1000, as the top teams will always land the premium and often recently fresh main game drivers such as the Whincups and the Coulthards.

Younger drivers looking at impressing on the big stage aren’t given that chance, as they would with a pre-Bathurst enduro or even yet – the Enduro Cup.

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