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Kostecki seals title as Waters wins Adelaide opener

BRODIE Kostecki is the 2023 Supercars champion.

The Erebus Motorsport star put a maiden title beyond doubt with a calm drive to sixth in the VAILO Adelaide 500 opener in a race won by Cam Waters.

The 78-lapper had barely gotten underway before there was seismic shift to the narrative as Kostecki’s title rival Shane van Gisbergen was taken out of the race.

Van Gisbergen had made a sluggish getaway from sixth on the grid and found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when the field got to the exit of Turn 4 for the first time.

Up ahead, Will Brown had been challenging Anton De Pasquale for fourth around the outside of Turn 4.

Brown got a bump from De Pasquale which sent the #9 Coca-Cola Camaro into the outside fence.

As it bounced back towards the racing line, Waters took evasive action but van Gisbergen was unsighted and ploughed into Brown.

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Both Brown and van Gisbergen were out on the spot, with their respective crews left with a mountain of work to do tonight.

The incident proved a double whammy for Triple Eight: not only did it all but eliminate van Gisbergen from title contention, it also reduced their capacity to close the deficit to Erebus in the teams’ championship.

For Kostecki, the equation was now simple: finish the race and he’d be crowned champion.

Once the race resumed from the early Safety Car intervention, it was clear that Kostecki’s modus operandi had changed accordingly.

Having led from pole position, Kostecki did not put up a fight when David Reynolds fired down the inside at Turn 9 on Lap 15 to seize the lead – a move mimicked a few laps later by Thomas Randle to make it a Ford one-two.

By that stage, De Pasquale had already pitted from fourth on an undercut strategy.

That initially got him ahead of Kostecki as the first pitstop cycle played out, but the #11 Shell V-Power Mustang – its steering wounded by the Lap 1 bingle – plummeted down the field before mid-distance.

Waters was the last of the leaders to stop on Lap 30, after which the order ran: Reynolds, Randle, Waters, Kostecki, Will Davison.

Chaz Mostert and James Golding were among those to differ on strategy, taking on considerably more fuel than their rivals.

Golding’s chances of making that count later in the piece met double trouble just before mid-race, as the #31 Nulon Camaro side-swiped the Turn 8 fence, and soon after was run wide at the final corner by a locked-up Todd Hazelwood (who copped a five-second penalty).

Meanwhile at the front, Waters began charging to the fore.

Donning the #43 and a Ken Block tribute livery, Waters cleared teammate Randle for second at Turn 9 on Lap 37.

Four laps later, he moved to the head of the field with a bold overtake of Reynolds down the inside of Turn 7.

Reynolds, reportedly battling steering issues, was at least able to keep Randle at bay as the final round of pitstops approached.

Tickford went aggressive by pitting its Castrol Mustang on Lap 48, leaving Randle with a 30-lap run to the end.

He was unable to undercut his forward though, with Waters and Reynolds pitting on Laps 52 and 54 respectively.

The latter emerged from the lane side-by-side with Waters into the first chicane, but Reynolds had to eventually slot in behind.

Thereafter, it remained a straight fight between those two before Waters gradually broke the back of Reynolds’ challenge.

The key focus in the closing stages was the intrigue around Feeney ranging up to the back of Kostecki, with the potential of putting the 26-year-old through one last pressure test.

Feeney snuck by at Turn 9 on the fourth-last lap, reducing Erebus’ teams’ championship lead ever so slightly to 161 points, but that allowed Kostecki to breathe easier in counting down to the chequered flag.

All told, Waters took it out with more comfort than 0.6708s in hand would suggest, giving Tim Edwards a victory in his final event at the helm of Tickford.

Reynolds and Randle completed the podium, while Mostert capitalised on a clever strategy to climb to fourth – making for a top four Ford lockout.

Behind Feeney and Kostecki, it was Davison, James Courtney, Andre Heimgartner and Scott Pye completing the top 10.

Towards the rear, De Pasquale limped home in 21st, ahead of Cameron Hill who had trouble getting his #35 Camaro fired up at the start and Matt Payne whose #19 Mustang sustained damage upon a first-lap lick of the wall.

Qualifying for the final Supercars race of the year will start at 10:15am local time (10:45am AEDT) tomorrow.

RESULTS: Race 1, 2023 VAILO Adelaide 500

143Cam WatersTickfordFord78 laps
226David ReynoldsGroveFord+0.6708s
355Thomas RandleTickfordFord+15.0234s
425Chaz MostertWAUFord+24.9561s
588Broc FeeneyTriple EightChevrolet+26.1843s
699Brodie KosteckiErebusChevrolet+29.9189s
717Will DavisonDJRFord+34.2278s
85James CourtneyTickfordFord+35.7872s
98Andre HeimgartnerBJRChevrolet+36.2441s
1020Scott PyeTeam 18Chevrolet+37.1958s
1118Mark WinterbottomTeam 18Chevrolet+39.1651s
123Todd HazelwoodBRTFord+47.3405s
1331James GoldingPremiAirChevrolet+48.5891s
1434Jack Le BrocqMSRChevrolet+57.6335s
1556Declan FraserTickfordFord+58.2442s
1623Tim SladePremiAirChevrolet+58.5789s
1796Macauley JonesBJRChevrolet+60.3509s
182Nick PercatWAUFord+75.7102s
1914Bryce FullwoodBJRChevrolet+76.1696s
204Jack SmithBJRChevrolet+2 laps
2111Anton De PasqualeDJRFord+2 laps
2235Cameron HillMSRChevrolet+4 laps
2319Matthew PayneGroveFord+5 laps
2497Shane van GisbergenTriple EightChevroletDNF
259Will BrownErebusChevroletDNF
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