Tickford Racing’s Chaz Mostert broke a winless streak driving solo in the Supercars Championship, making the best of other’s misfortunes to win the Saturday evening Melbourne 400 race.
After having two charging races over the weekend so far, Mostert made the best of a good position and good pace on fresh tyres late in the race to take the win, also the fifth in a row for the new Ford Mustang.
A strange incident before the race completely changed the plot of what was to unfold and potentially having a major impact on the championship in the long run.
On the out lap to the grid, contact between Tickford Racing’s Cam Waters and championship leader Scott McLaughlin saw the pair removed from the front row of the grid, both pulling into their garages before the race start for repairs.
With both teams frantically working on their driver’s cars, the front row was left vacant with Tim Slade inheriting the pole ahead of team-mate Nick Percat.
For the second race in a row, it was Whincup from the second row who made the best start, moving himself into position two by the first turn but Slade led the pack off the line, holding the #88 behind him with Percat trying to act as a wingman.
Whincup made a move for the lead at turn 13, getting past Slade as Percat tried to followed suit, eventually getting up to second but Slade fought back, pushing the #8 car wide at turn 15 which dropped Percat to seventh.
A wall rub for Whincup in the opening few laps gave the leader a scare but didn’t hamper his pace, extending his lead over Slade behind him who was having to deal with Chaz Mostert on a charge in his mirrors.
The first round of pit stops saw Mostert blink first on lap 10 with Whincup coming in two laps later. While the Triple Eight car retained the effective race lead, Mostert had pace to burn despite the older rubber.
On lap 13 after Slade had pitted and filed behind the pair, Mostert made his move at turn three and got past, stretching out in front to try and break Whincup from making a challenge later on.
Shane van Gisbergen was the last of the top pack to stop, rejoining the race in ninth but with the freshest rubber of anyone, wanting to make a big tilt in the final laps for a higher finish.
His glory run was to be short lived with the right rear of the #97 departing the car on lap 19, forcing him to limp back to the pits and for the safety car to be deployed to recover the lonely Dunlop.
Mostert led the way at the restart, gapping the field when the green flag dropped which left Whincup to fend off Slade for the second step on the victory dais.
Slade couldn’t find a way past the series’ most successful driver, having to settle for third while Mostert out front took his first win alone since 2017 at Queensland Raceway.
David Reynolds, Fabian Coulthard, Scott Pye, Will Davison, James Courtney and Nick Percat rounded out the top ten while van Gisbergen completed enough laps to be classified, albeit back in 22nd.
Image via Chaz Mostert