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De Pasquale snaps Ford Supercars drought

FORD is back on top.

For the first time in the Gen3 era, a Mustang crossed the line first with Dick Johnson Racing and Anton De Pasquale triumphing in Townsville.

It was a strategy-filled affair; DJR read the play better than anyone and De Pasquale delivered for his first win in more than 12 months.

For De Pasquale, who was helped by saving tyres yesterday, it’s a welcome result after a horrid start to the season – he entered Race 2 of the NTI Townsville sitting 20th in the championship.

It was still a leaderboard lopsided in favour of Chevrolet, with just two Fords in the top 12, but nevertheless a moment of relief for the Blue Oval when De Pasquale took the chequered flag with 5.0692s in hand.

Back to the start, Jack Le Brocq got the better getaway off the front row but pole-sitter Cam Waters hung on by virtue of having the inside line.

It was a clean run through the first half of the opening lap, with the only sign of trouble coming when the field reached Turn 7.

It was there that Shane van Gisbergen’s 500th race instantly went from bad to worse.

A qualifying mishap had forced van Gisbergen to start last, and he tumbled six seconds off the back of the pack after being spun by Declan Fraser in an incident which went unpenalised.

There were fast starts for James Courtney and Nick Percat, while Triple Eight’s start to the race worsened as Broc Feeney dropped from 13th to 16th.

Race 1 podium finisher Chaz Mostert’s day was done and dusted by Lap 2, thanks to a steering failure.

Mostert continued to show his frustration with Gen3, venting on the broadcast about “another control part that’s failed”.

Walkinshaw Andretti United had made mass changes to the #25 Mustang after a crash in the Top 10 Shootout.

Le Brocq briefly grabbed the lead with a Lap 5 lunge at Turn 11 only for Waters to criss-cross his way back ahead.

Waters led from there until making his first stop on Lap 22.

By then, De Pasquale (Lap 14), Percat (Lap 20) and Courtney (Lap 21) had all stopped, making ground via the undercut.

Le Brocq inherited the race lead but was passed by both Andre Heimgartner and Brodie Kostecki on Lap 24 before peeling off into the pits.

There was an unexpected challenge awaiting Le Brocq in the pitlane, the Darwin race winner forced to swerve to dodge Tim Slade’s Nulon Camaro which was pushed out of the garage at an untimely moment. PremiAir Racing had been working to fix a steering issue for Slade.

Van Gisbergen was the last driver to complete his first compulsory pitstop on Lap 33, leaving the top 10 as: De Pasquale, Waters, Feeney, Courtney, Le Brocq, Scott Pye, Heimgartner, Kostecki, Thomas Randle and Percat.

Then came a Safety Car on Lap 36 to turn the race on its head, triggered by bodywork flying loose off Cameron Hill’s car.

That created an intriguing decision for teams, with almost the entire field taking the chance to stop again and committing to a three-stop strategy.

That included the likes of Courtney, who lost massive track position by double-stacking behind Waters.

Just five cars stayed out to stick with a two-stopper: Will Brown, Bryce Fullwood, Will Davison, Hill and van Gisbergen.

On the restart, De Pasquale was able to carve his way past Brown, Fullwood and Davison and break clear from there.

That proved crucial in the long run, helping him create enough of a buffer to cover the fuel he still needed to take on.

The frontrunners’ final stops were completed by Lap 65, when De Pasquale and Le Brocq got their last lot of fuel and tyres.

De Pasquale re-emerged with a 12-second buffer in hand to nearest threat Feeney and was able to manage the gap from there as the action kicked off behind.

After a prolonged battle, Heimgartner muscled his way past Feeney at Turn 11 with 20 laps remaining.

Kostecki then pushed Feeney off the podium a couple of laps later and set about hunting down Heimgartner.

Kostecki moved into second with a bold move on Lap 77, at which point De Pasquale had an 8.9s advantage in hand.

The #99 Coca-Cola Camaro driver was able to gradually close the gap but never enough to seriously threaten De Pasquale.

Behind Kostecki and Heimgartner, Feeney finished fourth after being let back past at the very last moment by van Gisbergen.

It was an awkward end to the race for the recovering Triple Eight duo, van Gisbergen having got ahead before being told to swap back if he couldn’t catch Heimgartner.

Brown finished sixth to hang onto the championship lead, with Mark Winterbottom, Randle, Fullwood and Le Brocq rounding out the 10.

Waters was just 15th in the end after terrible tyre life made for miserable second and third stints.

David Reynolds was spun by Macauley Jones en route to 17th while brake issues consigned to Davison to 21st and Todd Hazelwood to a DNF.

Results: Race 2, 2023 NTI Townsville 500

111Anton De PasqualeDJRFord1:14.4184s
299Brodie KosteckiErebusChevrolet+5.0692s
38Andre HeimgartnerBJRChevrolet+11.5014s
488Broc FeeneyTriple EightChevrolet+18.6496s
597Shane van GisbergenTriple EightChevrolet+19.1164s
69Will BrownErebusChevrolet+26.4297s
718Mark WinterbottomTeam 18Chevrolet+27.6425s
855Thomas RandleTickfordFord+28.1561s
914Bryce FullwoodBJRChevrolet+30.9735s
1034Jack Le BrocqMSRChevrolet+35.9876s
1120Scott PyeTeam 18Chevrolet+40.9702s
1231James GoldingPremiAirChevrolet+45.3151s
132Nick PercatWAUFord+45.6825s
144Jack SmithBJRChevrolet+48.5387s
156Cam WatersTickfordFord+53.3389s
165James CourtneyTickfordFord+60.383s
1726David ReynoldsGroveFord+61.0761s
1819Matthew PayneGroveFord+62.19s
19777Declan FraserTickfordFord+63.2592s
2096Macauley JonesBJRChevrolet+68.5076s
2117Will DavisonDJRFord+1 lap
2235Cameron HillMSRChevrolet+5 laps
2323Tim SladePremiAirChevrolet+5 laps
243Todd HazelwoodBRTFordNTR
2525Chaz MostertWAUFordNTR
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