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The changing of the guard

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A NEW champion has emerged from the Red Bull Racing Australia stable, with Shane van Gisbergen clinching his maiden title in a 74-lap thriller on the streets of Homebush.

The Kiwi was forced to battle to the end to create an unbeatable 170-point lead over stablemate Jamie Whincup heading into the final race tomorrow (Sunday), after being dealt a drive-through penalty for contact with Prodrive Racing Australia rival Mark Winterbottom.

Van Gisbergen had one of the worst starts of his season, being swallowed by the rest of the field as Whincup took the lead for the entire 250km.

“I was just too conservative. Passing back through I wasn’t assertive enough and it cost us. After [the penalty] I had nothing to lose,” van Gisbergen said.

SVG only had to come fifth to clinch the title but charged through the field to finish on the podium alongside his teammate and Holden Racing Team’s Garth Tander.

“When the safety car came out we were back in the running for a good result and we pushed hard to finish in third,” he said. “It’s going to take a little time to sink in, I’ll have a quiet dinner with the family tonight and then celebrate with the team tomorrow.”

It has been an incredible year for Van Gisbergen, which saw him take out the Bathurst 12 Hour and the Blancpain GT Endurance title, and he will now line up on the 2017 Supercars grid with #1 on his Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore.

With the top two positions in the title now decided, Triple Eight Race Engineering could claim a 1-2-3 in the points with Team Vortex’s Craig Lowndes trailing Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin for third by just nine points.

“We’re really looking forward to the battle tomorrow. We’re nine points behind, so we’ve got a little bit of work to do. Game on!” Lowndes said.

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