The 2021 Repco Supercars Championship has officially begun with Shane van Gisbergen picking up where he left off in 2020 and winning a drama filled opener at the Mount Panorama 500.
Having started the first race of the season from the second row, van Gisbergen made up ground early and was soon gifted the lead when pole sitter Cam Waters was forced to retire towards the end of the first stint.
Once he took the lead, van Gisbergen comfortably led the way for the rest of the race until some late pressure from Chaz Mostert gave him a late scare. However, the 2020 Bathurst 1000 winner kept his composure and charged home for the win, making it two in a row at the iconic mountain.
“What an awesome day,” van Gisbergen said.
“Chaz was obviously faster at the end, but I wasn’t really pushing.
“We’ve got a bit of speed to find, but what an awesome way to start and Red Bull Ampol Racing, great car and awesome day with [new engineer David] Cauchi learning how we’re working together.”
It was a dream return to the championship for Will Davison, who marked his first appearance for Dick Johnson Racing with a podium ahead of Mark Winterbottom, while Bryce Fullwood rounded out the top five.
There was plenty of drama throughout the race involving the early front runners, including Davison’s teammate in Anton De Pasquale, who was the first car to retire after hitting the wall on lap nine.
While Waters was the next to go, undoing his good work and allowing van Gisbergen to cruise past to an eventual victory, it was Tim Slade’s retirement that left many in the Supercars community devastated.
Making his return to the sport in the new team Tim Blanchard Racing, Slade was on track for a fairy tale finish, despite losing positions off the start.
Fighting for third place with Davison for much of the 40-lap race, Slade looked a chance to nab a dream podium, but crashed with just five laps to go, ending not just his day, but potentially his whole weekend too.
Unlike Slade, DePasquale and Waters are likely to get another chance at redemption tomorrow for the second race of the season at 3pm AEDT.