Crowd favourite Craig Lowndes has taken his first win since 2016 by securing a pole-to-flag victory at Symmons Plains.
The veteran of over 20 years in the Supercars category was able to secure his first win since beating home his team-mates at Queensland Raceway was back in 2016 in commanding fashion.
Lowndes was able to take his first pole position since Queensland Raceway in 2015, leading home a one-two-three for Triple Eight with team-mates Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup putting space between the #888 and the #17 of Scott McLaughlin in fourth.
Jack Le Brocq provided another shock for the weekend, qualifying fifth in only his third full-time event in Supercars. Fabian Coulthard, James Courtney, David Reynolds, Garth Tander and Scott Pye filled up the first five rows.
Lowndes got another rocket start, this time taking advantage of the clear air in front of him to lead in to turn one, his team-mates following suit behind him. Richie Stanaway’s debut season went from bad to worse after contact at the hairpin broke the rear hub of the Tickford Falcon, causing him to retire.
Will Davison was spun at the hairpin by Michael Caruso who simply entered the turn too hot, making contact with the #230 machine, giving the #23 driver a 15 second penalty at his first pit stop.
The procession at the front was broken by Van Gisbergen pitting on lap 14, taking on 60 odd litres of fuel as well as tyres. McLaughlin came in next, short-filling to 43 litres which allowed him to come out with a gap to Van Gisbergen behind.
Lowndes pitted from the race lead on lap 22, his crew putting 49 litres of fuel into the #888 machine which meant he emerged from the pits behind McLaughlin. Five laps later, Whincup, Le Brocq and Coulthard came for their first stops of the day, making the effective race race order McLaughlin, Lowndes, Van Gisbergen, Courtney, Whincup, Mostert, Le Brocq and Coulthard in contention.
On fresher tyres, Lowndes was able to power past McLaughlin and retake the race lead on lap 30. Van Gisbergen’s car started to develop a problem while downchanging, causing issues with slowing down which hurt the #97 and caused him to lose a handful of spots in only a few laps.
Le Brocq started to put in the drive of his life, muscling past Mostert with the confidence of an experienced racer. He was able to drag Coulthard with him as the pair struggled to catch Whincup who trailed Courtney for the final podium spot.
Coulthard was lucky to escape having a massive accident after the turn three kink when the left rear wheel nut on his car parted company, almost sending him in to the fence. He was able to limp his car back to the pits, somehow not sustaining damage to the car and guard in the process.
Mostert and McLaughlin became the first drivers to take their second stops, both around lap 47 and taking four tyres as well as the minimum fuel drop. McLaughlin was able to emerge ahead of Lowndes, meaning he didn’t drop a lap in the process.
Courtney followed suit the next lap, dropping a lap to Lowndes who reacted on the next lap with Whincup. The stops couldn’t be closer with Whincup trailing Lowndes by less than a car length with the pair sandwiching McLaughlin when they exited the pit lane.
The front bunch battled with traffic though Lowndes was the beneficiary, gaining an air gap to McLaughlin who had opened up to Whincup as Courtney tried to get the final spot on the podium. Van Gisbergen came in for his stop on lap 60, trying to resolve the issue which had plagued the #97 for most of the afternoon.
With 17 laps to go, the rain started to fall, initially as light sprinkles, making teams prepare wet tyres in case another Melbourne Saturday race happened again. While the rain threatened, it didn’t come as the #888 extended the lead in the final laps.
Nothing could stop Lowndes from taking win number 106, leading home McLaughlin and Whincup to the podium. Courtney didn’t have enough to fight at the end while Le Brocq brought his Tekno car home in fifth after developing splitter issues in the closing laps.
The top ten was rounded out by Pye, Tander, Reynolds, Percat and Mostert. Van Gisbergen was the last of the finishers, dropping to fifth in the points after leading at the start of the weekend.
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