Shane van Gisbergen’s stunning victory in the Supercars season opener is under threat with a protest against his team’s cooling tactics certain to be lodged.
Motorsport Australia said a formal complaint had been lodged by rival teams Tickford Racing – whose Cam Waters driver finished third – and Kenshaw Andretti United – whose driver Chaz Mostert finished fourth.
It is understood that the concerns stemmed from Triple Eight’s use of dry ice during the team’s one-two finish in Newcastle on Saturday.
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The racing authorities also alleged that the team had breached driver cooling system rules in both Van Gisbergen’s cars and the cars of second-placed Brock Pheney.
Under Supercars rules, cooling systems must be “mounted inside the cockpit using the anchor points specified in the GSD for the passenger seat”.
Van Gisbergen has been a vocal critic of pedal-box heat inside the new Gen3 Camaro this weekend, complaining that his feet were “on fire” during practice on Friday.
Competitor Chazz Mostert described the heat inside the cars as a matter of “duty of care” before racing authorities later confirmed that teams could add more heat protection in the cockpits ahead of the season opener.
But whether or not dry ice is part of that extra protection is still up for debate.
Red Bull Racing made no secret of their use of dry ice during Van Gisbergen’s pit stop, with the product visible in the pit lane as they talked about it on the team radio.
A stewards’ hearing was held on Saturday evening, with the possibility of changing the outcome of the race if there was a successful outcome.
The decision will be made on Sunday morning.
Speaking after his race win on Saturday, Van Gisbergen said conditions inside his car had improved from Friday’s session.
“The team did a great job last night (Friday) bringing back all the things we were told to take off,” he said.
“It was definitely OK for me.
“My feet are literally on the firewall.
“I still feel my feet — I was trying to accelerate with my left foot a lot of the time. I take my foot off the wall to get a cool down and it’s not good, but I was fine.”
Van Gisbergen and Phinney both praised the Red Bull team for their efforts after the race.
“The number of hours the guys put in getting one or two is amazing,” said Feeney.
“The giveaway was a pretty big event. Luckily, it abated near the end of the race.”
Third-place finisher Cam Waters admitted his team didn’t even have a heat shield at Newcastle Racecourse.
“We didn’t have that heat shield. We didn’t have any problems in all of the tests. When the other teams had the problem yesterday, we put it in a safe place.”
Full race recap:
It’s a new era, the same Shane van Gisbergen in Supercars as the champion won the first race of 2023 in Newcastle.
But the Kiwi star didn’t have it all his way in the season opener, after starting from sixth and finding himself stymied by slalom rival Macauley Jones – so much so that he finally turned it away from him.
Van Gisbergen made no secret of the fact that he struggled in the new Camaro due to the cramped cabin and the heat conditions he had to endure.
But nothing could stop the 33-year-old as his 76th race win became the first for a Camaro in the new Supercars format.
The Kiwi star made quick work of the field from sixth place as Red Bull Ampol Racing elected to make a short pit stop for fuel to put him up early.
From there, Van Gisbergen took to the outdoors to take victory from team-mate Brock Feeney and Cam Waters.
Remarkably, it is the third year in a row that Van Gisbergen has won the first race of the year.
Van Gisbergen’s former teammate, now suspended at Fox Motorsport, Garth Tander said Red Bull’s early fuel strategy made the difference.
“Shane had full enough to jump in front of them,” he said.
Then he sat at the front of them and sprinted down the road just off the road. From that point on, I just knew Shane had the race covered.
“He did an amazing job.”
Super Cars star Mark Skaife said rivals need to focus on getting under Van Gisbergen’s skin if they want to defeat him in 2023.
“If you give him fresh air, he’ll go,” he said.
“You have to park in front of it. You can’t pass here – we know that!”
“Make sure you park in front of him – it’s the only way you’ll beat him!”
Van Gisbergen sent out an ominous warning to his rivals after the race, as he expected his car to go faster on Sunday.
“I didn’t feel comfortable in this car at all and the team did everything they could to make it better for me,” he said.
“I feel like I’m wobbly in the car.
“It’s never perfect.”
Van Gisbergen’s victory was the first race victory a Chevrolet driver had won in a championship since Kevin Bartlett at Oran Park in 1982.
It was also the fifth time in seven seasons, dating back to 2017, that a New Zealander had won the opening race of a season.
For only the second time, the entire Newcastle race ran all green, with 14 cars finishing on the first lap.
First sitter Brody Kosteki led the opening stint in the #99 Coca-Cola Camaro, but came home in fourth—popping after the first round of pit stops.
Waters and Finney kept Kosteki straight, and by lap six the top three positions were covered by just 0.9 seconds.
After a lull, Van Gisbergen grabbed the leaders and pounced on teammate Finny for third place at Turn 8 on lap 13.
Van Gisbergen pulled off after Waters, but try as he might, the reigning champion couldn’t unseat the No. 6 Monster Mustang.
The closest competitors were on lap 29; Waters slid exiting turn 11, and Van Gisbergen spun alongside – only for Waters to pit him on the spot.
With two laps to go, Vinny stopped from the third; On lap 30, Kostecki stopped out of the lead, coming up behind the bickering Waters and Finney.
Van Gisbergen emerged ahead of the three after stopping on lap 31, and had position on the track, clear of Waters.
By lap 48, the #97 Red Bull Ampol Camaro was 5.2 seconds ahead of Waters, with Finney and Kosteki falling behind Waters.
Van Gisbergen had followed Slade out of the pit lane, and the #400 Nulon Camaro was delayed by a stuck front wheel.
By lap 55, Van Gisbergen had opened his lead to 7.8s, with Waters keeping him at arm’s length.
Reynolds and Chaz Mostert (No. 25 Mobil 1 Optus Mustang) battled for fifth place, which became fourth once Kosteki became the first of the leaders to pit for the second time on lap 55.
Finney made his second pit stop the next lap, with Waters making a pit stop one lap later in response to the undercut’s refusal.
It didn’t work out, Vinnie Waters jumped out to claim second place and open up a gap – with Mostert clearing Reynolds at Turn 8.
On lap 65, Van Gisbergen made his last stop, and installed green tires on the right-hand side of his #97 Camaro.
The margin between the two Red Bull Ampol Camaros when rejoining was four seconds, with Waters one second behind Finney.
Behind them, Kostecki fell into the clutches of Mostert—Reynolds had dropped out of the top ten—with Will Brown finishing sixth.
After an enthralling battle, Mostert overtook Kosteki for fourth place on lap 81, but was 10.5 seconds behind his Ford Waters stablemate.
It didn’t mean much for Van Gisbergen, who scored his first win since Gold Coast 2022 to start his title defense in impressive fashion.
Andre Heimgartner (No. 8 R&J Battery Camaro), Mark Winterbottom (No. 18 DEWALT Camaro), Scott Pye (No. 20 Hino Camaro), and James Courtney (No. 5 Snowy Rivers Caravans Mustang) rounded out the top ten.
Nick Percat (No. 2 Mobil 1 NTI Mustang) was the only DNF in the race, as Slade lost five laps on his 400th career start.
Sunday’s competition will begin with the ARMOR ALL qualifiers at 11:15 a.m. local time, followed by a Top 10 Shootout at 12:35 p.m.
The Thrifty Newcastle 500 will conclude with a 95-lap 2 race at 3:20pm.
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