The first race of the weekend for the Supercars championship at Phillip Island was fraught with penalties, dramas and a whole load of confusion.
Scott McLaughlin put his Falcon on pole with the fastest Supercars lap ever around the circuit, followed closely by Fabian Coulthard. Mark Winterbottom and Shane van Gisbergen lined up on row two, looking to capitalise in case the two cars in front slipped up.
Dale Wood got a start which was too good to be true, receiving a ten second penalty for jumping the gun.
The usual turn one madness extended to turn two as multiple cars went off the sticky race track and on to the slippery grass. The worst affected was Todd Kelly who ended up nudging the marshal’s post at the Southern Loop.
While Fabian Coulthard put a gap on Mark Winterbottom, the Prodrive racer was hounded by Scott McLaughlin who soon got past, making it a DJR Team Penske one-two at the front.
Soon after, a few cars had tyre failures as had happened in practice on Friday. The first was Wood, Cam Waters having a similar problem soon after. The first big head to tumble was Mostert who dropped way down the pack.
Moffat, Courtney, Percat and Rick Kelly were the next to fall victim to their Dunlops prematurely expiring. Soon after there wasn’t a clean car on the track thanks to the tyre debris.
McLaughlin, Winterbottom and van Gisbergen pitted at the same time, the order remaining the same as they came out of the lane.
Coulthard burst a tyre just as he entered turn one, luckily not ended up off track. Pye had his second failure, as did Waters on the same lap. The drivers were instructed by their managers to back off but the cars still raced on.
A failure for Tim Blanchard and a second blow-out for Mostert saw the safety car deployed, just before Michael Caruso lost one of his rears.
Shortly after the restart, McLaughlin was given a 15 second penalty for crossing in to the working lane in the pits before he was allowed. After DJR Team Penske visited the stewards, the cars of van Gisbergen and Winterbottom were given identical penalties for the same infringement.
Coming in to turn one on lap 38, Jason Bright had a tyre failure, eventually limping back to the pits. Cam Waters and James Courtney tangled coming out of the MG hairpin, sending the Walkinshaw driver into the gravel with the safety car being deployed.
Bright again stayed out for another lap, perhaps to avoid holding up Mostert who he shares a pit bay with. McLaughlin decided to serve his penalty under the safety car, giving the lead to Garth Tander who had enough fuel to get home.
At the restart, Coulthard was a man on a mission, passing Caruso and De Silvestro on the opening lap, hunting down Tander for the lead. The cars behind Tander of Mostert and Moffat were a lap down, meaning they were not in the running.
Lowndes, Holdsworth, Percat and Douglas were all given 15 second penalties , another bunch who had broken the pit lane rules.
Coulthard closed right up on the bumper of Tander with ten minutes left, a time certain finish looming thanks to the extended safety car periods.
Just after Whincup got by Tander, a brake failure for Percat sent the BJR car in to the LDM car of Alex Rullo, bringing out another safety car and essentially sealing the field in their running order.
On the run up to the line, Lowndes bolted as everyone remained slow. Coulthard took the win with Whincup and Tander on the podium.
Image via Edge Photographics
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