Shane van Gisbergen finishes second in Sandown 500, extends V8 Supercars lead

Red Bull Holden Racing duo Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell have romped to victory in the Sandown 500, cashing in on their superior pace to lead home a Triple Eight Racing podium.

Shane van Gisbergen and co-driver Earl Bamber, on his Supercars debut for Red Bull's other combination, improved to second and boost the series leader's championship hopes.

Veterans Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards (Autobarn Lowndes Racing) rounded out Triple Eight's first 1-2-3 since a sprint race win at Queensland Raceway two years ago.

In a mind-numbingly dull start to the Enduro Cup, car No.1 cruised to a success that looked likely from Friday's first practice session.

Dumbrell trashed Whincup's long-running lap record on his first spin around the Melbourne circuit, showing the awesome pace of their ZB Commodore.

Whincup took his own record back in qualifying, when only an overly-cautious decision to put on wet tyres cost them pole position.

That didn't matter on Sunday, when Dumbrell jumped polesitter David Reynolds' co-driver Luke Youlden from the line.

The dynamic duo were never headed for effective control, claiming a third Sandown victory by almost seven seconds.

"I couldn't be happier, the car's been awesome all weekend," Whincup said.

Whincup's win was his fourth in the Sandown 500 - he won with Lowndes in 2007 - while Van Gisbergen's race-day resurgence headed off a hit to his title hopes.

The Kiwi was off the pace at the Home of Horsepower until Sunday, when Bamber improved from his 11th placed start and van Gisbergen did the rest.

"What a privilege to drive these cars with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team. They gave us some rockets today," van Gisbergen said.

The Kiwi's chief rival for the title, countryman Scott McLaughlin, finished fourth by holding off outside championship shot Reynolds.

Van Gisbergen's lead now stands at 55 points with four rounds remaining.

Storm clouds that provided drama on Saturday cleared, and even the notorious turn six - possibly Australia's most dangerous Supercars corner - didn't cause any serious issue.

Early safety cars following bungles by Dean Fiore and Jason Bright made no difference to the outcome.

McLaughlin and the rest of the field were never in the contest, as the Red Bull team tuned up for Bathurst in emphatic fashion.

Shane van Gisbergen, Red Bull Holden Racing Australia.
ITM Auckland Supersprint V8 Supercars. Pukekohe Park Raceway, Auckland, New Zealand. 04 November 2017. © Copyright Image: Marc Shannon / www.photosport.nz.
Holden driver Shane van Gisbergen in action at the Pukekohe Park Raceway in Auckland. Source: Photosport


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Kiwi driver Scott McLaughlin 'trying bits and pieces' to regain Supercars championship lead

Supercars title chaser Scott McLaughlin knows he has a massive opportunity to retake the championship lead in the Sandown 500.

But he also knows that having an opportunity to taking it are two very different things.

The Kiwi flyer will start from the second row in the 500km endurance classic tonight after falling on the right side of a major strategic call in qualifying.

With rain and even hail teeming down, his team chose to not to pit for wet tyres and reaped the benefits when the shower moved on just minutes later.

Title rival Shane van Gisbergen's car No.97 went in to the pits, along with most of the field, where he was left stranded, double-stacked as he waited for his teammate to clear out.

Van Gibsergen will start on the sixth row as a result, giving McLaughlin a major chance to return to the top of the standings in Melbourne.

"At the moment it is an opportunity," he said.

"Today really went well for us and didn't go so well for them.

"It looks like he probably doesn't have as much speed as car No.1 does.

"We've got try and do our best and execute tomorrow and we'll worry about (the title standings) at the end."

McLaughlin sits 19 points behind van Gisbergen as the series begins the three Endurance meets - the Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000 and the Gold Coast 600.

Whincup sits a further 343 points back but he too should close the gap on Sunday.

Together with co-driver Paul Dumbrell, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team ZB Commodore has resembled a rocket ship, lowering record lap times in Melbourne through practice and qualifying.

Their decision to go in for wet tyres cost them pole position, won by David Reynolds and Luke Youlden.

McLaughlin said the team would keep on working to find extra speed before the race kicks.

"For us at the moment, yeah, (car speed) is an issue. I'm probably losing two car lengths," he said.

"I'm losing time on both the cars I raced today - nine and one.

"We've been trying bits and pieces all weekend."

Scott McLaughlin of DJR Team Penske during the Coateshire Newcastle 500,  at the , Newcastle, New South Wales, November 24, 2017. Copyright photo: Clay Cross / www.photosport.nz
Scott McLaughlin Source: Photosport


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Scott Dixon 'wanted to cry' after IndyCar crash threatened to ruin 2018 title bid

Kiwi driver Scott Dixon has admitted he "wanted to cry" after thinking his chances of a fifth IndyCar title were ruined by a crash at this week's Portland Grand Prix.

Dixon entered the penultimate race of the 2018 season on Monday leading the drivers' championship but after getting tied up in a six car pile-up on the first lap, he was brought close to tears.

"I felt like I wanted to cry for a little bit, actually," Dixon told IndyCar.com.

The Kiwi was however surprised to discover after the crash his car was not seriously damaged and he recovered a substantial amount of ground to go from 21st place to fifth.

The stunning performance saw him not just defend his overall lead in the championship but extend it to 29 points over American Alexander Rossi who finished eighth in Portland.

"I definitely thought it was over before it began," Dixon said. "That old saying, 'better lucky than good,' that definitely played out. I knew it was going to be a pretty lucky day from that point on."

Despite the heroics, Dixon still only has one hand on the title heading into the final race at Sonoma, California on September 17.

The race offers double points, meaning not only can Rossi take the title but Australian Will Power and defending champion Josef Newgarden also have a mathematical chance of winning despite sitting 87 points back.

If Dixon wins in California, the title is his. If Rossi wins, Dixon must finish second or he'll lose. 

Scott Dixon.
Scott Dixon. Source: Associated Press


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Brendon Hartley warned he must improve on tough season as F1 team looks over 2019 options

Brendon Hartley's rollercoaster season in Formula 1 has taken another sharp turn with the Kiwi driver being told by his team he needs to improve or risk losing his seat for 2019.

Hartley's first full season in the prestigious motorsport circuit has been far from smooth sailing, with the 28-year-old collecting just two points in 14 races.

He has also been involved in multiple crashes this year, including one in the recent Italian GP where he lost his front wheel through contact before the first corner of the race.

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 02:  Brendon Hartley of New Zealand driving the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13 Honda stops at the side of the track after damaging his car during the start of the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 2, 2018 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Brendon Hartley of New Zealand driving the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13 Honda stops at the side of the track after damaging his car during the start of the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy. Source: Getty

While Toro Rosso teammate Pierre Gasly helped Hartley's chances by getting promoted to the senior team for 2019, Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko admitted there was still pressure on the Palmerston North native.

"There has to be a big improvement in the last few races of the season," he told Speedweek.

"For 2019 there is no shortlist, but a long list. There are 10 names on there, one with a contract at Mercedes, which is why it probably won't be him.

"But everything is possible."

Hartley sits 19th on the championship with seven races left in the season but remains positive.

"Things still haven't gone my way but I won't let it break me," he said on social media.

The Kiwi will get his next chance to prove himself at the Singapore Grand Prix on September 16.

Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley of New Zealand pulls his helmet on during the first practice session at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Friday, March 23, 2018. The first race of the 2018 seasons is on Sunday. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Brendon Hartley. Source: Associated Press


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Kiwi F1 driver Brendon Hartley crashes out of Italian GP, Lewis Hamilton wins

For Ferrari, the wait continues. For Lewis Hamilton, it was a dream race.

Hamilton won the Italian Grand Prix this morning after starting third on the grid to extend his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel following an opening-lap collision with the German driver that effectively ended his chances of victory.

Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley had a dreadful start to the race driving for Toro Rosso, he was squeezed between two cars which resulted in him losing his front right wheel through contact.

Hartley started 16th on the grid and didn't even make it to the first corner of the race.

Ferrari had been hopeful of ending an eight-year wait for a win at its home track after taking the front two places on the grid at the Italian GP for the first time since 2000.

However, pole-sitter Raikkonen was overtaken by Hamilton eight laps from the end and the Mercedes driver held on, much to the disappointment of the passionate Italian tifosi fans.

"Today was so difficult. Whilst the negativity is never great, that's what powered me along. I actually accept it," Hamilton said after getting roundly booed on the podium.

Hamilton, who said he rated the win as among the top performances of his career, tied Michael Schumacher's record of five Italian GP victories and extended his overall lead to 30 points over Vettel

"Disappointed but there was nothing I could do," said Raikkonen, who struggled with a tire problem in the final few laps.

Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas was third, ahead of Vettel and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who received a five-second penalty.

The 33-year-old Hamilton pinpointed the collision with Vettel as the decisive moment of the race.

"That was definitely a very, very key moment, getting past him was the immediate goal... my race is not really with Kimi, it's with Sebastian. However, I do need to get past Kimi at the same time," Hamilton said.

"Getting past Sebastian at the beginning was clearly a massive turning point. That definitely took a lot of pressure off ... I could just focus on Kimi for the whole race. We had a couple of good battles."

Vettel had cut the gap at the top of the standings to 17 points with victory at last weekend's Belgium GP. Hamilton put his rival under pressure from the start but Vettel pulled clear and was alongside Raikkonen into the first corner.

Hamilton had another go on the outside heading into the second chicane, inching ahead of Vettel when they made contact, causing Vettel to spin and lose part of his front wing.

The safety car was deployed and Vettel was forced into the pits for a new wing, coming out 18th.

Both drivers complained on team radio but an investigation decided that no further action was necessary.

"Obviously I guess Lewis saw his chance but he didn't leave me any room so I got spun around and couldn't avoid what happened," said Vettel.

"It could have been the other way, which would have been nicer for us, but wasn't and I was facing the wrong way.

"We did well to come back given the damage that we had."

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 02:  Brendon Hartley of New Zealand driving the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13 Honda stops at the side of the track after damaging his car during the start of the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 2, 2018 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Brendon Hartley of New Zealand driving the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13 Honda stops at the side of the track after damaging his car during the start of the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy. Source: Getty


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