Van Gisbergen in holding position for fifth
Shane van Gisbergen remains in a holding position in fifth on the V8 Supercar standings despite two podiums finishes in the latest round in Abu Dhabi.
The Gold Coast-based Kiwi was denied a third appearance on the dais at Yas Marina by Stone Brothers Racing teammate Tim Slade who sprayed champagne for the first time since May when finishing behind defending champion Jamie Whincup and pole sitter Will Davison.
Van Gisbergen started the Middle Eastern round, which dovetailed with the latest installment of the Formula 1 calendar, with back-to-back third placings on Saturday but, after qualifying third fastest behind Whincup and Davison, he paid for a sluggish start and was behind Slade at the first bend of the final 12-lap sprint.
Whincup also effortlessly swept his Holden past Davison moments after the green light and powered to his third chequered flag - a trio of wins that extend his championship lead to an imposing 296 points over Mark Winterbottom with just two rounds remaining.
The Australian's 11th race win of the series ensured Holden cannot be denied the V8 Supercars manufacturers title by rivals Ford and also represented the 100th victory by a VE Commodore - a unique achievement for a single model in V8 Supercars and Australian Touring Car Championship history.
Whincup beat Davison's Ford to the line by 1.1 seconds while Slade, who held second for a significant part of the race before being caught on the final corner of the penultimate lap, had enough leeway to condemn Van Gisbergen to fourth.
Van Gisbergen still managed to extend his lead over Slade in the standings to 115 points, suggesting a top-five finish is possible with solid performances at Winton in regional Victoria on November 16-18 and the championship-ending stop in Sydney next month.
"Tim got a rocket start and I sort of settled into fourth to save tyres, knowing how they went off (on Saturday)," Van Gisbergen said.
"Then we got the safety car and they got a good cool off and the race was shortened so that plan went out the window.
"As soon as it went green light it was just flat out the whole time, but our tyres weren't really there at the re-start. They came on good but our balance was a bit different.
"It wasn't quite as good (as Saturday) but still fourth is really good."
The race was marred by a fiery pile up on lap two involving Jason Bright, Karl Reindler and Dean Fiore.
Bright spun on the exit of turn 17 after being touched by Jonathon Webb's Tekno Autosports Holden. With nowhere to go, Reindler - following several positions behind - smashed into Bright's stricken Team BOC Holden.
Dean Fiore then heavily crashed into the rear of Reindler's car, rupturing the fuel cell and causing it to catch on fire.
Fortunately Reindler, whose vehicle also caught fire on the start line at Barbagello in Western Australia last year, extricated himself quickly and emerged without injury.
Van Gisbergen, meanwhile, was supportive of the sprint-race format implemented for the V8 Supercars return to Abu Dhabi.
"It's awesome. You only need to go out with no feeling and go straight into the races and perform. It's pretty exciting for a driver.
"It's pure racing, really .... you go out and go as fast as you can and that's it. The tyres go off and you hold on."
Van Gisbergen's compatriot Fabian Coulthard was unable to improve on his 10th placing in the championship while Kiwi veteran Greg Murphy's miserable campaign with Pepsi Max Crew continued with two lowly finishes before his Holden failed to complete the final race.
He languishes in 28th, the bottom-placed fulltime driver.
Leading championship standings: Jamie Whincup (Team Vodafone Holden) 3360 points 1; Mark Winterbottom (Ford Performance Racing) 3064 2; Craig Lowndes (Team Vodafone Holden) 2971 3; Will Davison (Ford Performance Racing) 2779 4; Shane van Gisbergen (Stone Brothers Racing) 2434 5; Tim Slade (Stone Brothers Racing) 2319 6; Garth Tander (Holden Racing Team) 2232 7; Lee Holdsworth (Irwin Racing) 1913 8; David Reynolds (Bottle-O Racing) 1875 9; Fabian Coulthard (Lockwood Racing) 1843 10.