The non-Australian pairing of Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat produced one of the best drives this season to win Sunday’s Gold Coast race.
After starting from 13th position due to an average qualifying session, Premat and McLaughlin dragged the car to the front to lead from the pointy end in the final stints.
Matt Campbell’s start from pole was decent but team-mate Dumbrell was better, taking the lead into the chicane to lead the field on the opening lap of the race.
Despite a few hairy moments and the obligatory straight-lining of the first chicane, the field made it through the opening laps without drama.
The first major contact of the race came only a few laps in when Andre Heimgartner was spun in to the turn 11 tyres by Dean Fiore, damaging the car which led yesterday and earning the Nissan a drive-through penalty.
Further contact was made between Taz Douglas and James Golding, the latter being spun at the exit of the hairpin but it was Douglas’ car which took damage, having to be garaged for repairs.
The race claimed its first victim as Bathurst champion Luke Youlden became unsettled through the beach side chicanes, unloading the Erebus car into the fence though he was able to limp back to the pits.
An incident at the exit of turn three saw the #78 of David Russell and the #62 of Alex Davison return to the pits due to both making contact with Richard Muscat in the #34 car at the exit of turn three.
A bungled pass on Steven Richards by Richie Stanaway at turn three saw the pair make contact, breaking the suspension on the Sandown winning car, limping back to the pits as the round of stops started.
On lap 35 most of the field started to come in to the pits for their mandatory driver changes, allowing the co-drivers to chill out and the main drivers to do their thing behind the wheel.
Alex Rullo sent his LDM car down the escape road at the hairpin shortly after leaving the pits, either having a problem with his car or himself as his pace reflected some kind of issue.
Shane Van Gisbergen started to develop and issue with his car, having bent steering which allowed Craig Lowndes and a flying Scott McLaughlin to quickly close in.
McLaughlin was the first to blink, taking his last schedlued pit stop on lap 61, fuelling to the end to try and force the leaders in to an unplanned strategy.
Mostert was the next in on lap 62 with Van Gisbergen and Lowndes following soon to cover McLaughlin, both of the Triple Eight drivers losing spots to the #17.
Whincup responded on lap 65, coming in just after McLaughlin set the quickest lap of the race which allowed the Kiwi to take the lead though he had to straight-line the first chicane to avoid contact with the #88 departing the pits.
As the stint went on, questions arose about the fuel level of the leading car of McLaughlin as Whincup started to respond, closing up to the race lead.
Traffic in the form of Chris Pither held McLaughlin up but hurt Whincup and Van Gisbergen more, the latter being baulked massively at the first chicane.
Heading in to the final laps, both McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen were given bad sportsmanship flags for the overuse of kerbs at the chicanes, allowing Whincup to attack in the dying moments.
Despite traffic and all the other drama, McLaughlin crossed the line to take his first win since Ipswich and his first with Alex Premat. Whincup and Van Gisbergen rounded out the podium, giving Whincup the championship lead.
Lowndes, Winterbottom, Courtney, Mostert, Holdsworth, Coulthard and Percat completed the top ten, the result for Mostert good enough to win him and Owen the Enduro Cup.
Going in to Pukekohe, Whincup leads the championship with Coulthard 17 points behind and McLaughlin 27 points behind.
Pic via Shell V-Power Racing Team