Chaz Mostert has won his second race of the year after holding off his rivals due to a late race safety car.
The Prodrive racer was able to convert a front row start to victory thanks to a good jump off the line plus a consistently fast car.
Scott McLaughlin continued his stellar qualifying form, smashing the lap record which he set the day before to take his 11th pole of the season. He sits only two behind the season record and five poles in a row means he has matched team owner Dick Johnson’s record from 1988, as well as his career record.
Chaz Mostert went under the lap record too but couldn’t top McLaughlin, starting in second ahead of Jamie Whincup and Fabian Coulthard.
A fumbled start saw McLaughlin get swamped off the line and Mostert get the holeshot. Whincup followed on the opening lap ahead of Coulthard then the pole-sitter who had fought back past Mark Winterbottom. The top four proceeded to check out from the rest of the pack, engaging in a close battle for the lead.
Soon Mostert and Whincup created their own battle, driving a second away from the DJR Team Penske pair which was led by Coulthard with a quick McLaughlin behind him. The first stop of the front runners went to McLaughlin, coming in to pit for four tyres and a short fuel fill.
Mostert and Whincup reacted to McLaughlin’s top the next lap, Whincup emerging in the lead of the pack by taking on a very short fill of fuel while Mostert stayed in his bay for four more seconds. Both emerged ahead of McLaughlin who set the new fastest lap on his first flying tour after the stops.
Will Davison ran off the road at turn three on lap 16, suffering a puncture on the approach to the hairpin. Although he dropped down the pack, he kept going and was able to pit, as did Winterbottom and Tim Slade for their scheduled stops.
Coulthard came in for his pit stop on lap 18, taking a long stop for fuel to go for the short run at the end of the race. He came out far behind the lead bunch and also behind Winterbottom though quickly retook the position between turns one and two.
Michael Caruso and Jack Le Brocq made contact on lap 19 as the factory driver tried to sneak inside the wildcard entry at turn two.Le Brocq had damamaged right front suspension while Caruso came in to take a new left rear tyre after suffering a puncture due to the contact.
Shane Van Gisbergen and Craig Lowndes relinquished the race lead when they both came in on the same lap, the stable mates coming out with little space between them. At the rejoin, Van Gisbergen cut in front of Rick Kelly while Lowndes had to file in behind.
Caruso came in to retire on lap 23, exiting the car and giving team boss Scott Sinclair an earful about his woes. Lowndes made the move of the race by getting past both Slade and James COurtney at the final turn, reaping the benefits of fresh tyres and other drivers fighting their own battles.
Will Davison again found the gravel at turn three, suffering another tyre failure, likely due to running an aggressive camber setup. Coulthard moved past a struggling Nick Percat who signaled for the #12 car to pass at the final turn, not wanting to end up in the wall.
Lowndes continued his charge up the pack, getting by Winterbottom on lap 33 at the turn three hairpin, making use of his superior car speed and tyres.
Whincup and Mostert pitted on lap 36 to defend the McLaughlin undercut. Mostert’s shorter fill meant he got out of the lane ahead of Whincup, effectively in the lead while McLaughlin stayed out as leader on the road. McLaughlin took his stop two laps later, rejoining behind both drivers but crucially ahead of James Golding who was yet to stop.
Coulthard was having a hard time in the lead on the road, being overtaken by cars a lap down and on younger tyres. Within a lap he was passed by Scott Pye, Lee Holdsworth and Tim Blanchard, struggling for car speed before his final pit stop on lap 40.
Lowndes took the lead of the race on track as he passed Van Gisbergen right when Coulthard peeled in for his stop, the DJR Team Penske pilot emerging ahead of Percat and behind his team-mate. The #888 car came in to the pits on lap 42, dropping behind Coulthard, Percat, Winterbottom and Todd Kelly.
A similar fate struck Van Gisbergen, coming out behind Lowndes at the pit exit but getting past on the short run between turns one and two. The pair had better tyres than the cars in front but a lack of track position though Van Gisbergen then Lowndes passed Todd Kelly on the same lap.
McLaughlin closed in on Whincup with 20 laps to go, hounding the back of the #88 machine with evident pace in his car though letting Mostert extend his lead due to the squabbling. In the meantime, the other two Triple Eight cars made more progress, coming past most of the cars in front.
The battle for second raged on until lap 48 when McLaughlin got past Whincup at turn six, looking to hunt down Mostert for the race win. Courtney suffered a tyre failure coming in to turn one on lap 51, ending up in the gravel but managing to limp home.
Percat followed the same orders and popped a tyre on his Dunlop entry at turn three, ending up dumping bits of tyre and debris on the track. The safety car was deployed on lap 54 to allow the mess to be cleaned up just as Tander became another victim, going off the road at turn three.
The race resumed on lap 58 as the debris was removed from the track. Mostert led the way as he and McLaughlin started to put a gap on Whincup. Contact between Todd Kelly and Jason Bright luckily didn’t end in an accident at the end of the first lap after the restart at turn six.
Coulthard’s fresher tyres saw him gain on Whincup as he was simultaneously being chased by Van Gisbergen. The defending champion got past and gained on his team-mate, both looking to get back in the title fight. A heated battle for 17th saw Blanchard, Hazelwood, De Silvestro, Golding and Holdsworth battle it out for the minor placings.
Van Gisbergen was able to get by Whincup, the #88 lifting on approach to turn four so the #97 could try and catch both the leading Fords. Mostert opened up a one second gap at the front while the gap between the Kiwis of McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen was under two car lengths.
The order stayed the same on the final lap with Mostert taking his second win of the year ahead of McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen. Mostert’s last win was at Phillip Island on Sunday, also making it the 11th win for a Ford this year.
Whincup, Coulthard, Lowndes, Slade, Waters, Reynolds and Winterbottom completed the top ten finishers. Hazelwood was the best wildcard finisher in 18th while Davies was the last car to finish on the lead lap.
Image via SuperCheap Auto
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