Van Gisbergen reigns in the Melbourne rain

LAINE CLARK
Last updated 19:47 16/03/2013
Shane van Gisbergen
Mark Horsburgh

Shane van Gisbergen spins off the track before recovering to go on and win race three of the MSS Security V8 Supercar Challenge at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

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When it rains it pours for Kiwi driver Shane van Gisbergen.

And after soaking up the miserable conditions to claim race-three honours in the V8 Supercars exhibition round at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Saturday, the Holden ace looks set to break his championship drought in 2013.

Van Gisbergen broke compatriot Fabian Coulthard's two-race winning run at the V8 exhibition round in Melbourne by emerging victorious in a wet and wild 12-lap blitz of Albert Park despite starting from ninth on the grid.

Incredibly, he finished almost 13 seconds ahead of fellow Holden driver Craig Lowndes while van Gisbergen's teammate Jonathan Webb completed the rain-soaked podium.

The New Zealand driver is known for his purple patches of form.

And van Gisbergen - the last-start race winner at the official season opener in Adelaide - will be confident of riding his rich vein to a touring car title tilt after turning heads at the non-championship round in Melbourne.

"Undoubtedly," said Van Gisbergen's teammate Webb, who heads their family-owned Holden team.

"It puts a smile on my face that we have a team to support a driver like Shane.

"We have put everything in place for Shane to win races and that is exactly what he is starting to do - this is just the season start we had hoped for."

Van Gisbergen still lives day to day with the threat of legal action stopping him from competing after a messy departure from his former team.

If the Kiwi was distracted by it, he hid it well on Saturday.

"I expected to be sitting at home doing nothing," van Gisbergen said of his initial V8 season plans.

"But I knew with a good team and great car, I was a good chance of getting results.

"There is a nice atmosphere and environment in our team and I feel I am driving really well.

"I am a bit surprised (by his success) but I am not going to take anything for granted."

Series leader Lowndes seemed amazed at van Gisbergen's speed in the wet.

"We had a red hot go but, when Shane disappeared down the road, it was silly to try and chase him. We will just try and make the car faster in the future," he said.

The day started under grey clouds yet, at one stage, the Melbourne street circuit was bathed in sunshine.

However, pelting rain greeted the nervous V8 drivers when they emerged for Saturday's half-hour blitz.

And the race lead changed almost as much as Mother Nature.

Keen to seal a third straight win at Melbourne, Coulthard tried to stay out of trouble as pole sitter and luck appeared to be on his side when Lowndes' first lap challenge failed.

Lowndes reeled in Coulthard by the first lap and appeared to have the Kiwi's measure, only to lock up and spear off the track losing precious time.

Then van Gisbergen had a crack at Coulthard, only for him to find the gravel by the second lap just as he had taken the lead. He dropped back to fifth.

It was then Coulthard's turn to find grief as race leader.

The Holden driver came off the greasy track on the third lap and dropped to third, opening the door once again for van Gisbergen and Lowndes to vie for the lead.

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Somehow, van Gisbergen avoided more drama in conditions that were so bleak that most competitors had their headlights on.

No championship points are on offer at Melbourne.

The exhibition is completed by a 12-lap event on Sunday from 3.20pm (NZT).

Results, race 3, 12 laps: Shane van Gisbergen (Tekno Team VIP Holden) 27:08.3375, 1; Craig Lowndes (Red Bull Racing Holden) 27:20.9447, 2; Jonathon Webb Tekno Autosports Holden) 27:24.6820, 3; Fabian Coulthard (Lockwood Racing Holden) 27:29.4439, 4; David Reynolds (Bottle O FPR Ford) 27:30.1303, 5. Also NZers: Jonny Reid (Wilson Security Ford) 28:12.7981, 22; Scott McLaughlin (Fujitsu Racing Holden) 28:19.2211, 24.

Points after 3 races: Coulthard 210, Jason Bright (Team BOC) 189, Lowndes 188, Will  Davison (Pepsi Max FPR Ford) 169, Reynolds 136. Also NZers: McLaughlin 118, 10; Van Gisbergen 117, 11; Reid 53, 23.

- AAP

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