Fabian Coulthard has taken another victory for DJR Team Penske by beating the carnage for his first victory in three rounds.
The #12 driver and pre-Townsville championship leader drove a clean race to overcome his rivals at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Saturday’s qualifying session was a nearly unsurprising affair with Scott McLaughlin claiming his 12th pole position of the year, taking out the pole award for the year in the process.
His lap was good enough to put him two-tenths of a second clear of Mark Winterbottom who put his Prodrive Falcon into the second spot on the grid. Shane van Gisbergen, Coulthard, Jamie Whincup, Tim Slade, Chaz Mostert, David Reynolds, Scott Pye and Craig Lowndes rounded out the top 10.
A delayed start thanks to a timing issue ensured the levels of tension would increase before the race start proper. Despite the delay, the time certain finish time of 5:27pm plus one lap remained.
Winterbottom was able to get the jump off the line as McLaughlin struggled for grip. In to Turn 1, McLaughlin, van Gisbergen and Coulthard went three wide, van Gisbergen prevailing to take second place.
Further back at Turn 1, contact between James Courtney, Jason Bright and Will Davison saw the latter pair spin, though luckily not being drilled by the following pack.
Mostert and Reynolds battled throughout the first lap and in to the second, the Erebus driver seeming to struggle to find a rhythm in the opening stages of the race.
Winterbottom held the lead early on but was under siege from van Gisbergen and the DJRTP machines behind him. Whincup and Slade kept up with the top four while checking out from the rest of the pack.
On Lap 10, Slade dropped back through the pack like a stone, suffering a front-right puncture. McLaughlin blinked first out of the leading pack, coming in for four tyres.
Van Gisbergen finally passed Winterbottom at the start of Lap 11, passing cleanly at Turn 2. On the same lap, the leader pulled in for his compulsory pit stop, also taking four tyres but a slow stop meant he came out behind McLaughlin. To add insult to injury, the reigning champion locked a tyre at Turn 2, losing more time.
Winterbottom stayed out for a long time even though a quick Whincup closed in and eventually passed after some bumping on Lap 15.
Lap 17 saw the top six come in for their pit stops, all coming in for four tyres. Whincup’s stop gave him a massive gap over the rest while Coulthard jumped Winterbottom.
The stops saw McLaughlin take the effective race lead from van Gisbergen and Reynolds. A puncture for Todd Kelly left debris over the track on the run to Turn 9, forcing the Safety Car to come out and bunch up the pack.
The restart saw van Gisbergen make an overlap on McLaughlin down the straight, the pair banging doors in to Turn 1. While the Triple Eight driver got past, everything exploded at Turn 2 when McLaughlin retaliated, spinning van Gisbergen.
Reynolds proceeded to drill the back of McLaughlin and was then hit by Whincup, both the #9 and #88 suffering damage. Both started to drop time as Coulthard caught up to and passed McLaughlin for the race lead, the #17 visibly wounded, although not as much as the cars behind.
With seven laps to go, McLaughlin was handed a 15-second time penalty for the contact with van Gisbergen while the ruckus at the restart was set to be investigated post-race. Van Gisbergen started making his way back up the field, putting it all on the line to regain points.
Coulthard went on to win his first race since Darwin, coming home ahead of Mostert and Whincup. Winterbottom, Pye, Caruso, Lowndes, Reynolds, Tander and McLaughlin rounded out the top ten.
McLaughlin crossed the line in second but his time penalty took him back to tenth, losing points to Whincup in the championship battle. Van Gisbergen dropped to 15th after the contact, McLaughlin coming up to him after the race to apologise for the mistake.
|2017 Australian Supercars Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint – Race 17 Top-10 Finishers (31 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power DJR Team Penske||49:29.170|
|2.||Chaz Mostert||SuperCheap Auto Racing||+ 3.984|
|3.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||+ 7.448|
|4.||Mark Winterbottom||The Bottle-O Racing Team||+ 8.782|
|5.||Scott Pye||Mobil 1 HSV Racing||+ 9.324|
|6.||Michael Caruso||Nissan Motorsport||+ 10.187|
|7.||Craig Lowndes||TeamVortex||+ 10.381|
|8.||David Reynolds||Erebus Penrite Racing||+ 17.039|
|9.||Garth Tander||Wilson Security Racing GRM||+ 17.456|
|10.||Tim Blanchard||Team CoolDrive||+ 19.078|
Image via Keith McInnes