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Supercars: Sydney Motorsport Park Race 17 Report

Fabian Coulthard has taken victory in an enthralling Race 17 of the Championship, making the most of a controversial, late race clash between Shane van Gisgergen and Scott McLaughlin.

A strong start from Mark Winterbottom off the front row of the grid meant the Ford driver lead through turn one.

Not everyone got though cleanly though, Will Davison and Jason Bright spinning across the track and into the grass on the outside of the corner. The two drivers would get going again, but with major flat spots on their tyres.

A close nit battle then began to unfold between race leader Winterbottom, and second place van Gisbegen.

The two drivers ran together for a number of laps until lap 12, when Van Gisbergen made a pass under brakes at turn two.

James Courtney was the first to blink coming into the pits on lap 10, this kicked off a whole raft of pitstops with McLaughlin coming in a lap later.

Tim Slade suffered from a front left puncture hampering his race but at the head of the field the battle was only just begining.

When van Gisbergen came in for his stop, a slow tyre change on the front left meant that McLaughlin assumed equal third.

Things went a little more downhill for van Gisbergen when he ran wide at turn two loosing valuable seconds in the process.

Jamie Whincup critically got through on Winterbottom at turn four before their pitstops.

A safety car was deployed on lap 19, with debris littered across the track from an explosive left rear tyre puncture for Todd Kelly.

This safety car would be the one that would turn the race on it’s head, literally.

On the restart all hell broke loose.

Van Gisbergen, who was sitting in second, edged alongside leader McLaughlin as they trundled down the main straight waiting for the green flag.

The two drivers made side to side contact and ultimately, van Gisbergen got past as they swung through turn one.

The pair ran nose to tail under braking for turn two as McLaughlin tipped SVG into a spin – making contact with the left rear corner of the Red Bull Holden Racing Commodore and leaving him in last as McLaughlin continued on.

The restart was investigated after the race, but McLaughlin immediately received a 15s time penalty for his role in the incident.

The clash didn’t just affect the main protagonists – Reynolds, Whincup and Mostert all suffered front end damage as they pilled into the back of each other when McLaughlin jumped on the clamps after turning SVG.

When the race came to close, the first thing McLaughlin did was run down to van Gisbergen to apologise, claiming full responsibility.

“It was an absolute balls-up on my behalf and I’m sorry to him and his team. It’s not the way I want to do it… it’s not my style,” he said.

“(On the restart) I just got caught sleeping. There’s a lot for me to look at tonight, it wasn’t the best race on my behalf.”

Van Gisbergen took the flag 15th, losing more ground in the championship battle.

“I saw the green flag so I went beside him and didn’t pass him before the line,” he recounted of the race’s flashpoint.

“(When) I got in front of Scotty and he hit me once, I tried to correct it and he’s hit me off. But to his credit he was straight here apologising.

“The thing that frustrates me is we were up the back and he only gets 15 seconds for it, but bigger people than me make those decisions.”

Whincup managed to hold onto third place in his battle-scarred Holden with extensive damage to the front end of the car.

Further time penalties were handed out to van Gisbergen and McLaughlin the next day prior to Sunday’s race.

Van Gisbergen copped a 33-second penalty, dropping him to 24th, after stewards deemed the Red Bull Holden driver breached Safety Car restart rules.

Regulations dictate that drivers are only allowed to overlap before reaching the control line once the green flags have been waved.

An additional 18 second penalty was added to the 15s sanction issued to McLaughlin’s race time, which demoted him from 10th to 22nd in the results.

Race 18 of the Championship will take place on Sunday as the series battle hots up.

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