Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen took advantage of a late safety car to win an enthralling race at Winton Raceway and fire a counterpunch back at championship rivals Shell V-Power Racing on Sunday.

The defending series champion's Red Bull Holden Racing Team found improved speed on Sunday after playing catch-up to their Ford rivals over the past three rounds and sets up a superb championship battle through the rest of the year.

Red Bull teammate Jamie Whincup held off a charging Fabian Coulthard over the final laps to ensure a one-two finish for the Holden outfit.

The safety car - the first since Phillip Island two rounds ago - was called when Michael Caruso was pushed off the track and into the tyres, which bunched the field up and left a 13-lap sprint to the finish.

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New Zealander van Gisbergen got the better of the re-start and jumped his teammate Whincup while the latter was left to go back and forth in a terrific exchange with Coulthard.

Cam Waters jumped pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin while all of that was going on as well and there were exchanges all the way down the field thanks to the late safety car intervention. McLaughlin, who won both races at Barbagallo a fortnight ago as well as Saturday's race, didn't quite have his car dialed in from the outset. He was beaten off the line by Whincup and wasn't able to respond with anything.

Waters finished fourth with McLaughlin fifth.

It was a masterclass of aggressive racing from van Gisbergen, who had to fight extremely hard to get past McLaughlin in the opening laps and then the exchange with teammate Whincup for the race lead was sublime.

"We worked pretty hard. The boys alongside us [Shell V-Power Racing] have been pretty quick but one-two for the team - I can't thank the boys here and at the shop enough," van Gisbergen said.

"It has been tough but we are on our way back and feeling really good.

"Fabian was really quick at the end so when I got through to the lead I had to try and put Jamie in between us because I knew Fabian would be pushing. It worked out, got Jamie back in second and one-two."

Coulthard was satisfied with a podium finish having not quite had his car spot-on in qualifying.

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"It was great. We have got a quick car, which is nice," Coulthard said. "To be able to race people is fantastic as well.

"The guys at Shell V-Power Racing have given us an awesome car - Scotty [McLaughlin] had a great qualifying and I had an awesome race car."

Coulthard maintains a four-point lead in the championship ahead of Whincup, with McLaughlin (28 points) and van Gisbergen (37 points) not far behind.

Championship standings
1. Fabian Coulthard 1060 points
2. Jamie Whincup -4
3. Scott McLaughlin -28
4. Shane van Gisbergen -37
5. Chaz Mostert -199
6. Garth Tander -256
7. Mark Winterbottom -262