‘Superb’ reaction to terrifying crash
Shane van Gisbergen will need a miracle to catch Scott McLaughlin with two races remaining in the Supercars series but he's already been crowned People's Champion after an incredible act of sportsmanship at the Gold Coast 600 on Sunday.
Race fans were horrified when series-leader McLaughlin suffered a scary crash in qualifying as he collided with a wall and tipped his car on its side.
After several competitors passed the wreck, it was van Gisbergen - number two in the standings and still reeling from the bitter fallout to a controversial Bathurst 1000 - who came to the Ford driver's aid.
He stopped his car, sprinted down the track and jumped up on the wall while attempting to help pull McLaughlin out of his Mustang.
Van Gisbergen, who went on to claim victory in the final race and made a major dent in McLaughlin's series lead, said it was an impulse reaction.
"It's not a good feeling coming around the corner and seeing one of your mates on his side," van Gisbergen said.
"I helped him out but the medical team were there fast. He was pretty shaken but he will be fine.
"It was irrelevant who it was when I first saw it. You would do it for anyone in the field - it was shocking."
This. This is simply superb from van Gisbergen. Fantastic to see. https://t.co/xglSmBNJlr— Guy Heveldt (@GuyHeveldt) October 27, 2019
Further adding to his good-guy status, van Gisbergen refused to talk about the series standings after making the most of McLaughlin's absence by winning the 102-lap event by 0.17 of a second ahead of fellow Holden star Jamie Whincup.
Van Gisbergen cut McLaughlin's series lead from 613 to 463 going into the final two rounds which offer a total of 600 points.
But the New Zealander clearly had mixed feelings about whittling away McLaughlin's lead while the Ford driver was being monitored in hospital.
McLaughlin passed a concussion test at the trackside medical centre after his qualifying crash.
But he was later taken to hospital for observation before being discharged on Sunday night after van Gisbergen had emerged triumphant for the fourth time this season.
"I don't really have any thoughts about that (drivers' championship)," said van Gisbergen, who was partnered by Garth Tander.
"I am more about Scotty and his well being. Their Bathurst-winning car is now ready for the scrap heap - it is pretty sad to see.
"As far as the championship goes, you don't want to gain points like that - the focus now is the team championship."
McLaughlin thanked his rival for his instant reaction. "I just want to thank Shane for pulling up … and seeing if I was all right. I want to say thanks to him," McLaughlin said on Sunday.
"It all happened so fast … I was more worried about people hitting my roof than I was about [the crash].
"Thankfully we've got a great car. Everyone does in Supercars. And we're safe. And people will learn from this incident and hopefully, we can make safety even better for the next few years."
Van Gisbergen's Red Bull Racing (RBR) outfit trail McLaughlin's DJR Team Penske by just 132 points going into the next round, the Sandown 500 from November 8-10.
McLaughlin's hopes of wrapping up the Supercars championship title on Sunday were in tatters when he was ruled out of the Gold Coast finale after his horror accident.
McLaughlin's Mustang hit the inside kerb at 140km/h at the tough concrete wall-lined street circuit and ended up on its side on turn four.
The Kiwi could have secured consecutive titles if he finished the Gold Coast 600 holding a 600-point lead over van Gisbergen.
Now McLaughlin is firmly in van Gisbergen's sights.
McLaughlin is also looking for a new ride, with his Mustang written off in the spectacular qualifying crash.
McLaughlin will be assessed again before getting a full clearance for the Sandown 500.
"He will be reviewed at Sandown but is expected to be fit to race there," Supercars medico Carl Le said.