Chaz Mostert has continued Prodrive Racing’s hot streak of wins with victory in the opening encounter of the SkyCity Triple Crown at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway.

He led home teammate and championship leader Mark Winterbottom in what was an uncharacteristically action-packed sprint race.

After by beaten to pole for the first time in five outings, Mostert outdragged polesitter James Courtney off the front row at the start and led the field into the Turn 1 left-hander.

He controlled the rest of the race to win by just over a second, although the driving behind him was anything but controlled.

As the pack funneled into Turn 1, there was contact between reigning champion Jamie Whincup’s Red Bull Racing Holden and the fellow Commodore of Brad Jones Racing’s Fabian Coulthard. Whincup was squeezed onto the inside kerbing by the Kiwi, and with his car unsettled, he hit the left-rear of Coulthard. The resulting damage was severe, with Coulthard copping a puncture and having to retire as a result. It was a bitter blow after qualifying a strong third-fastest in a brand new chassis.

Further around the lap, there was more drama when Scott McLaughlin tried to slip up the inside of Craig Lowndes’ Holden at Turn 6; Lowndes was himself on the inside of Tim Blanchard and trying to make up ground after a poor start.

Three-wide into the tight corner was always going to be a recipe for disaster, and the hapless Blanchard was turned around in the melee while Lowndes himself had to spin-turn his way and rejoin teammate Whincup at the rear of the field. McLaughlin was also into the pits to retire his Volvo with damaged steering from the incident.

The race featured two Safety Car interruptions by wayward cars igniting small grass fires on the track’s run-off areas, while a number of other competitors either tripped over each other or just tripped up all by themselves.

Friday pace-setter David Reynolds looped his Bottle-O Ford at the final corner, while Nick Percat found himself on the receiving end off a robust recovery drive from Whincup when he was forced onto the run-off by the Red Bull Holden.

Jason Bright and youngster Andre Heimgartner also came together at Turn 6, with the former punting the latter into a spin. Lowndes had another spin later on, looping his car at Turn 5 in an optimistic move on Will Davison’s Erebus Mercedes.

Up at the front, second-placed Courtney was struggling to fend off a hard-charging trio of Winterbottom, Rick Kelly’s Nissan and Shane van Gisbergen’s TEKNO Holden when he outbraked himself at Turn 1.

His mistake allowed Winterbottom and Kelly to move into second and third respectively, but the drama wasn’t over for the HRT driver.

After another grass fire Safety Car interruption, the restart saw the field caught out by a late jump from Mostert. The pack was compressed in the squabble for third place, and it led to Courtney and van Gisbergen coming together under braking at Turn 1. The former squeezed the latter under braking, leading to Courtney being tipped into a spin while his teammate Garth Tander – who tried to capitalise by taking the outside line at the corner – found himself with nowhere to go and had to take to the run-off in avoidance.

That allowed Kelly’s teammates, James Moffat and Michael Caruso, to sneak up into fourth and fifth places to put three of the Japanese carmaker’s Altimas in the top-five. The fourth Nissan of Todd Kelly would cross the line in tenth place.

Saturday’s second race gets underway at 15:45 local time.

2015 V8 Supercars SkyCity Triple Crown – Race 13 Top-10 Classified Finishers (21 laps)
Pos Driver Team / Entry Time
1. Chaz Mostert Pepsi Max Crew 27:48.753
2. Mark Winterbottom Pepsi Max Crew + 1.019
3. Rick Kelly Nissan Motorsport + 2.047
4. James Moffat Nissan Motorsport + 2.431
5. Michael Caruso Nissan Motorsport + 3.386
6. Scott Pye DJR Team Penske + 3.665
7. Tim Slade SuperCheap Auto Racing + 3.973
8. Dale Wood GB Galvanising Racing + 4.329
9. Nick Percat Repair Management Racing + 4.581
10. Todd Kelly Nissan Motorsport + 4.990

Image via Prodrive Racing Australia

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Geoff Burke

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