Fabian Coulthard has stretched his championship lead after taking another win this season.
The DJR Team Penske driver managed his tyres and made use of an alternative strategy to take another win for the season, extending his points lead.
In qualifying it was Rick Kelly who put his Nissan Altima on pole, edging the DJR pair of Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard. David Reynolds in his Erebus qualified fourth with Shane Van Gisbergen in fifth.
Rick Kelly led into turn one after a great start but Reynolds got off to a flyer, trying to get around the outside of the pole sitter’s Nissan but ending up dropping to third in the que. Contact in the back of the pack between Dale Wood and Mark Winterbottom saw the Erebus car suffer a puncture and the Prodrive Falcon spin.
At the end of lap one, Todd Kelly was spun at the final turn by James Courtney at the saem time his team-mate Michael Caruso had a similar fate thanks to Macaulay Jones. Up the front, McLaughlin tried to challenge for the lead at turn one but ran wide, dropping a handful of positions.
Jones and Courtney were again caught up in the action, the former making contact with the latter coming on to the front straight. Fellow wildcard entry Jack Le Brocq almost got himself in to the mess, having to take evasive action to miss the spinning BJR Commodore.
Coulthard was the first of the lead group to stop at the end of lap six, taking on two tyres only on the right side while Nick Percat took rear tyres only. McLaughlin was the next to blink, mirroring the strategy of Coulthard and coming out behind the BJR cars. Leader Rick Kelly came in for two tyres but there was an issue fitting the right rear, meaning he came out behind Coulthard.
Back on track, Reynolds was passed for the on-track lead by Van Gisbergen, seemingly struggling with pace. Rick Kelly went wide at the final turns, having a drag race with Whincup down the straight and bumping as they passed the pits, losing two places over the course of a few corners.
Van Gisbergen’s right rear tyre let go at the start of lap 18, going off at turn one and losing spots. Rick Kelly speared off at the back end of the circuit thanks to a stuck throttle, bringing out the safety car for the first time. Those who hadn’t yet stopped came in to the pits as Mostert jumped Reynolds in the lane.
While it was Courtney and Wood who led the field under the safety car, the former had not yet stopped and the latter only pitted on lap one. Courtney also had a penalty to serve for his involvement in an earlier incident. Coulthard was the effective leader followed by the BJR cars of Percar and Slade with McLaughlin and Whincup close behind.
Courtney peeled in to the pit lane on the restart, allowing the true leaders to race. McLaughlin got past Slade at turn one, forcing the BJR pilot wide as he was relegated down the order thanks to being stuck on the bad side of the road for most of the lap. The next lap saw McLaughlin pass the second BJR car of Percat, making it a DJR Team Penske one-two at the front.
Mostert looked to have pace, keeping up to the bumper of Whincup on much fresher tyres. Reynolds’ tardy stop meant he was fighting to get near the top five while keeping Lowndes at bay. Jack Le Brocq gave Nissan double headaches, punching off pseudo team-mate Simona De Silvestro at turn one. With the incidents involving himself and Jones, Super2 series drivers were not making great impressions in their first solo races.
Coulthard lost a bit of his lead margin with the top five covered by a small amount of time. He and Percat had stopped on the same lap, earlier than the others at the front of the pack. Back in the fight for the minor placings, Van Gisbergen was fighting to regain points after slipping back down the order earlier.
The defending champion was forced to retire after a desperate move on Garth Tander saw him also make contact with Jason Bright, breaking the #97’s steering rack and dropping the #33 down the order. Lowndes was able to get past Reynolds, making up eleven places on his starting position.
Nothing could stop the Shell backed Fords as Coulthard and McLaughlin took the third one-two for the team as Percat followed them home in third for his first podium of the season. Whincup and Mostert rounded out the top five while it was Waters, Lowndes, Reynolds, Moffat and Holdsworth who completed the ten.
Image via Shell V-Power Racing Team