Scott McLaughlin has converted another pole position to victory after taking out the opening race of the Townsville 400.
Holding off six-time champion Jamie Whincup, the Kiwi used a combination of pace and strategy to take the win, securing the lead in the Supercars Championship standings at the same time.
Qualifying saw McLaughlin take his eighth pole of the season, seemingly looking like his is going to beat Whincup’s record of 13 with ease. Whincup lined up alongside his championship rival with Chaz Mostert in third. Cam Waters put in an impressive lap for fourth with defending champion Shane van Gisbergen in fifth. Points leader Fabian Coulthard qualified a lowly ninth while #888 driver Craig Lowndes could only manage 19th.
When the lights turned green, McLaughlin and Whincup went side-by-side in to turn one with the latter prevailing, leading a majority of the opening lap. Drama occuring into the turn two hairpin as a concertina crash sent Garth Tander in to Tim Slade who then spun Coulthard.
The #12 car was hit in the nose by the #7 machine of Todd Kelly, the Nissan having to retire after making it back to the pits while the championship leader kept racing, albeit in last. A fierce battle ensued at the front between Whincup and McLaughlin, the pole sitter getting past at the final turn, snatching his lead back.
Winterbottom was another big winner on the opening tour, going from sixth to third, ahead of his two Prodrive team-mates. He was the first of the lead pack to pit as his team-mates quickly followed suit, going on an alternate strategy to most of the field.
McLaughlin took his first stop on Lap 19, taking on 50 litres of fuel while Whincup stayed out for another lap, taking on around 10 more litres of fuel compared to McLaughlin. The #88 was jumped by the leading DJRTP car and the Prodrive pair of Winterbottom and Mostert although he now had less fuel to take on in the last stops.
Whincup started to make his way back up to the top, passing Mostert on Lap 28 before catching up to and passing Winterbottom quickly after five more laps. Van Gisbergen was the first main driver to take on the final compulsory fuel dose, coming in on Lap 41 with the Prodrive pair of Winterbottom and Mostert following suit a lap later, van Gisbergen slotting between the two.
The lead duo of McLaughlin and Whincup came in on the same lap, the DJRTP Falcon getting out ahead of Whincup and well clear of the rest they were battling. Mostert was stuck behind van Gisbergen for a few laps but got past thanks to the #97 machine breaking a header, losing valuable performance in the dying laps.
Waters soon got past the ailing Commodore in to fifth while van Gisbergen kept struggling to retain a high-point scoring position. Reynolds fumbled a pass, having to redress which allowed Lowndes by the pair of them, elevating him to sixth from his 19th place starting spot.
McLaughlin stayed on top at the front, taking the victory and the points lead with it. Whincup held on to second while Winterbottom filled the final spot on the podium. The top ten was rounded out by Mostert, Waters, Lowndes, van Gisbergen, Tander, Reynolds, Moffat. Coulthard just missed out by finishing in 11th.
|2017 Australian Supercars Watpac Townsville 400 – Race 13 Top-10 Finishers (70 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power DJR Team Penske||1:28:19.742|
|2.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 4.096|
|3.||Mark Winterbottom||The Bottle-O Racing Team||+ 15.406|
|4.||Chaz Mostert||SuperCheap Auto Racing||+ 20.259|
|5.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||+ 28.522|
|6.||Craig Lowndes||TeamVortex||+ 34.169|
|7.||Shane van Gisbergen||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 37.022|
|8.||Garth Tander||Wilson Security Racing GRM||+ 37.117|
|9.||David Reynolds||Erebus Penrite Racing||+ 37.596|
|10.||James Moffat||Wilson Security Racing GRM||+ 38.279|
Image via Shell V-Power Racing Team