Shane van Gisbergen’s stunning Supercars season-opening win is under threat with confirmation a protest has been lodged over his team’s cooling tactics.
Motorsport Australia said an official complaint was lodged by rival teams Tickford Racing – whose driver Cam Waters finished in third – and Walkinshaw Andretti United – who had driver Chaz Mostert finish fourth.
It is understood the concerns stem from Triple Eight’s use of dry ice during the team’s one-two finish in Newcastle on Saturday.
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Race authorities have also claimed the team breached driver cooling system rules in both van Gisbergen and second-placed Broc Feeney’s cars.
Under Supercars rules, cooling systems need to be “mounted within the cockpit utilizing the mounting points designated in the GSD for the passenger seat”.
Van Gisbergen has been a vocal critic of the pedal box heat inside the new Gen3 Camaro this weekend, complaining his feet felt “on fire” during practice on Friday.
Rival Chaz Mostert labelled heat inside the cars as a “duty of care” issue before race authorities later confirmed teams could add more heat protection in the cockpit ahead of the season opener.
But whether or not dry ice is considered part of that extra protection remains under deliberation.
Red Bull Racing made no secret of their use of dry ice during van Gisbergen’s pit stop, with the product visible in pit lane while they spoke about it on team radio.
A stewards hearing took place on Saturday night, with the race result potentially altered should there be a successful outcome.
A decision will be handed down on Sunday morning.
Speaking after his race win on Saturday, van Gisbergen said conditions inside his car had improved from Friday’s session.
“The team did a big job last night (Friday) putting all the stuff back on that we were told to take off,” he said.
“It was definitely OK for me.
“My foot is literally on the firewall.
“I could still feel my foot – I was trying to accelerate with my left foot a lot of the time. Take my foot off the wall to get a cool down which is not very good, but I was OK.”
Both van Gisbergen and Feeney praised the Red Bull team for their efforts post-race.
“The amount of hours the guys have been putting in, to have the one-two is great,” Feeney said.
“Heats been a pretty big thing. Luckily it cooled down towards the end of the race.”
Third-placed Cam Waters admitted his team didn’t even have a heat shield in originally at the Newcastle track.
“We didn’t have that heat shield in. We hadn’t had any issues in all the testing. When other teams had the issue yesterday, we put it in to be safe,” he said.
FULL RACE RECAP:
It’s a new era, same Shane van Gisbergen in Supercars with the reigning champion taking out the first race of 2023 in Newcastle.
But the Kiwi superstar didn’t have it all his own way in the season opener, after starting from sixth and finding himself frustrated by lapped rival Macauley Jones – so much so he flipped him off as he finally got around him.
Van Gisbergen has made no secret of the fact he’s struggled in the new Camaro due to the more cramped cabin and heat conditions he’s been forced to endure.
But nothing could stop the 33-year-old as his 76th race win became the first for the Camaro in the new Supercars format.
The Kiwi superstar made quick work of the field from sixth as his Red Bull Ampol Racing team opted for a short fuel stop to put him in the lead early.
And from there, van Gisbergen exploited his open air to claim victory from teammate Broc Feeney and Cam Waters.
Remarkably, it’s the third year in a row that van Gisbergen has won the first race of the year.
Van Gisbergen’s former teammate, now Fox Motorsport commentator Garth Tander said Red Bull’s early fuel strategy was the difference.
“Shane just filled enough to jump out in front of them,” he said.
“Then he sat on the front of them and drove up the road out of the way. From that point on I just knew Shane had the race covered.
“He did an amazing job.”
Supercars great Mark Skaife said rivals needed to focus on getting under van Gisbergen’s skin if they were to beat him in 2023.
“If you give him clean air, he’s gone,” he lamented.
“You’ve got to park yourself in front of him. You can’t pass around here – we know it!
“Make sure you park a car in front of him – it’s the only way you’re going to beat him!”
Van Gisbergen sent an ominous warning to rivals post-race, as he expected his car to go faster on Sunday.
“I haven’t been ever comfortable in this car and the team’s done everything they can to make it better for me,” he said.
“I feel like a wobbler in the car.
“It’s never perfect.”
Van Gisbergen’s victory was the first championship race win by a Chevrolet driver since Kevin Bartlett at Oran Park in 1982.
It was also the fifth time in seven seasons, dating back to 2017, that the New Zealander had won the opening race of a season.
For just the second time, an entire Newcastle race ran green for its entirety, with 14 cars finishing on the lead lap.
Pole-sitter Brodie Kostecki led the opening stint in his #99 Coca-Cola Camaro, but came home fourth — where he emerged after the first round of stops.
Waters and Feeney kept Kostecki honest, and by lap 6, the top three were covered by just 0.9s.
After a lull, van Gisbergen caught the leaders and pounced on teammate Feeney for third at Turn 8 on lap 13.
Van Gisbergen set off after Waters, but try as he might, the reigning champion was unable to displace the #6 Monster Mustang.
The closest the rivals got was on lap 29; Waters slid exiting Turn 11, and van Gisbergen drew alongside — only for Waters to pit immediately.
Two laps earlier, Feeney stopped from third; on lap 30, Kostecki stopped from the lead, and emerged behind the squabbling Waters and Feeney.
Van Gisbergen emerged ahead of all three after his lap 31 stop, had track position, and powered away from Waters.
By lap 48, the #97 Red Bull Ampol Camaro was 5.2s ahead of Waters, with Feeney and Kostecki dropping away from Waters.
Van Gisbergen had followed Slade out of pit lane, with the #400 Nulon Camaro delayed by a stuck front wheel.
By lap 55, van Gisbergen had opened his lead to 7.8s, with Waters keeping Feeney at arm’s length.
Reynolds and Chaz Mostert (#25 Mobil 1 Optus Mustang) disputed fifth, which became fourth once Kostecki became first of the leaders to make his second stop on lap 55.
Feeney made his second stop on the next lap, with Waters stopping one lap later in response to negate the undercut.
It didn’t work, Feeney jumping Waters for effective second and opening up a gap — with Mostert clearing Reynolds at Turn 8.
On lap 65, van Gisbergen finally made his second stop, and took on green tyres on the right side of his #97 Camaro.
The margin between the two Red Bull Ampol Camaros on rejoin was four seconds, with Waters one second behind Feeney.
Behind them, Kostecki fell into the clutches of a charging Mostert — Reynolds had dropped out of the top 10 — as Will Brown held a lonely sixth.
After an enthralling battle, Mostert out-dragged Kostecki for fourth position on lap 81, but was 10.5s behind Ford stablemate Waters.
It meant little to van Gisbergen, who scored his first victory since Gold Coast 2022 to commence his title defence in fine fashion.
Andre Heimgartner (#8 R&J Batteries Camaro), Mark Winterbottom (#18 DEWALT Camaro), Scott Pye (#20 Hino Camaro) and James Courtney (#5 Snowy Rivers Caravans Mustang) rounded out the top 10.
Nick Percat (#2 Mobil 1 NTI Mustang) was the only DNF of the race, with Slade dropping five laps in his 400th career start.
Sunday’s action will commence with ARMOR ALL Qualifying at 11:15am local time, followed by the Top Ten Shootout at 12:35pm.
The Thrifty Newcastle 500 will conclude with the 95-lap Race 2 at 3:20pm.
Originally published as Shock Supercars ‘dry ice’ protest after champ’s statement win