Motorsport: Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen wins third Bathurst 1000 before departing for NASCAR

Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen has won the iconic Bathurst 1000 for a third time - backing up his 2022 victory - to keep his fading Supercars championship hopes alive.

In his last appearance at Mount Panorama before taking up a NASCAR contract in the United States next year, van Gisbergen and Kiwi co-driver Richie Stanaway started sixth on the grid, but assumed control about 100 laps into the 161-lap journey. 

Stanaway hasn't raced Supercars since 2019, but will return to the series next year and showed he had lost nothing in his absence. He began the race and battled polesitter David Russell, driving for championship leader Brodie Kostecki.

Richie Stanaway and Shane van Gisbergen celebrate their Bathurst victory.
Richie Stanaway and Shane van Gisbergen celebrate their Bathurst victory. Photo credit: Getty Images

Perhaps the key moment of the contest came, when Russell chose not to pit during the second safety car, while both Red Bull drivers Stanaway and Jamie Whincup took full advantage of the lull in action.

Stanaway took the lead, as Russell handed off to Kostecki, and van Gisbergen never trailled his archrival, when he eventually took over four laps later.  

"Amazing," reflected van Gisbergen. "We weren't the fastest car all week, but we worked on the racecar and what a feeling - Richie did a stellar job all day.

"It's been tough, but thanks to all these fans. I'm really going to miss it, I really love this place... and I'll be back.

"I wouldn't say last, I'll be back one day probably, but for now, this is a perfect way to say goodbye. It's been difficult with this car, she was falling apart a bit at the end, but we made it."

Throughout practice and qualifying, van Gisbergen insisted he was focused totally on driving fast during the race, but fired a warning shot, when he became the first Supercars driver officially clocked at 300km/h down Conrod Straight to reach the Top-10 Shootout.

Stanaway also emerged as the fastest in co-driver practice, to underline the car's potential.

Late in the race, van Gisbergen found his nearest opposition coming from young Red Bull teammate Broc Feeney, who trailled by only four seconds and held a fuel advantage with one pitstop remaining, but slowed to a crawl, as he suffered a breakage to his gear lever mount.

Once Feeney was forced out, van Gisbergen's only real threat was mechanical misfortune or a late safety car to close the field up again. He seemed to lose brake pressure after his penultimate stop, but nursed it back to health.

The Kiwi emerged from his last pitstop with a 20-second advantage over Kostecki and complained of steering issues, but managed that problem through to the finish. He and Stanaway became only the second Kiwi pair to win at Bathurst, after Steve Richards and Greg Murphy in 1999. 

The race wasn't as happy for other NZ drivers, with young Matt Payne qualifying eighth on debut, but watching French co-driver Kevin Estre drive off the track on the 28th lap.

Andre Heimgartner qualified 13th and had his car up to seventh, but co-driver Dale Wood put their car into the wall on the 39th lap.

"This is definitely at the top for me," said Stanaway, who has excelled across several racing disciplines. "It's an unbelievable feeling.

"It's a childhood dream of mine to win this race - I can't believe it. Teaming up with Shane, I knew we had a good shot, but you never know with this place.

Shane van Gisbergen in action at Bathurst.
Shane van Gisbergen in action at Bathurst. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The last 60 laps were probably the longest two hours of my life."

The result may yet prove just the tonic for van Gisbergen's championship defence, which seemed dead in the water, after Kostecki won four of six races leading into Bathurst.

He now lags 131 points behind with four races remaining at Gold Coast and Adelaide. That's still considerable ground to make up, but this outcome gives him renewed hope.