A strong start set up a second victory of the season for Mark Winterbottom and Ford Performance Racing in Race 11 at Pukekohe.
The #5 Falcon beat pole-sitter James Courtney to the first corner and was never headed for the remainder of the 100km race.
Winterbottom edged away before and after a mid-race Safety Car to take the flag two seconds clear of the Holden Racing Team Commodore.
With Craig Lowndes finishing 16th following a difficult qualifying session earlier in the afternoon, Winterbottom has closed to within 18 points of the championship leader.
“It was really good obviously the start was important to beat James off the line,” said Winterbottom afterward.
“To get the win is awesome and I put my hand up; I drove badly yesterday and I had a fair bit of redemption for the guys on the team.
“They were up all night changing bolts, uprights and rear-end (following a crash in Race 10 qualifying) and so it was awesome to turn it around with a win.”
Chaz Mostert added to FPR’s day by claiming his first podium for the factory Ford outfit in third.
The youngster had lost the position to Jamie Whincup off the start, but regained it when the Red Bull Holden slid wide off the final corner a short time later.
“I don’t think I have ever been so excited to see a third place finish,” smiled Mostert.
“It’s been a tough start to the year and to be on the podium with Frosty it’s fantastic for the team.”
Whincup eventually took fourth from Shane van Gisbergen, Scott McLaughlin, Nick Percat, David Reynolds, Garth Tander and Fabian Coulthard.
The second half of the top 10 provided much of the race’s entertainment.
Nick Percat held fifth early before losing places to Kiwis McLaughlin and Van Gisbergen.
Van Gisbergen’s Holden eventually proved too strong for McLaughlin’s Volvo, taking the position for good with eight laps to go before running through the back chicane, with no loss of position, several times in the closing stages.
The race’s most intense battle occurred early between Tim Slade and Jason Bright.
After several bouts of contact, a skirmish at the chicane resulted in broken suspension for the former and a drive-through penalty for the latter.
Bright pitted for fresh tyres under the Safety Car, called to retrieve Robert Dahlgren’s expired Volvo from the front straight, to rescue a 12th place finish.
A second 100km race will follow later this afternoon.
RESULTS: Race 11 – ITM 500 Auckland – Pukekohe Park Raceway
|1||5||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Pepsi Max Crew||Ford Falcon FG|
|2||22||James Courtney||Holden Racing Team||Holden Commodore VF|
|3||6||Chaz Mostert||Ford Pepsi Max Crew||Ford Falcon FG|
|4||1||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Racing Australia||Holden Commodore VF|
|5||97||Shane Van Gisbergen||Team Tekno VIP Petfoods||Holden Commodore VF|
|6||33||Scott McLaughlin||Valvoline Racing GRM||Volvo S60|
|7||222||Nick Percat||Walkinshaw Racing||Holden Commodore VF|
|8||55||David Reynolds||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Ford Falcon FG|
|9||2||Garth Tander||Holden Racing Team||Holden Commodore VF|
|10||14||Fabian Coulthard||Lockwood Racing||Holden Commodore VF|
|11||16||Scott Pye||Wilson Security Racing||Ford Falcon FG|
|12||8||Jason Bright||Team BOC||Holden Commodore VF|
|13||7||Todd Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Nissan Altima|
|14||4||Lee Holdsworth||Erebus Motorsport V8||Mercedes E63 AMG|
|15||360||James Moffat||Norton Hornets||Nissan Altima|
|16||888||Craig Lowndes||Red Bull Racing Australia||Holden Commodore VF|
|17||15||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Nissan Altima|
|18||9||Will Davison||Erebus Motorsport V8||Mercedes E63 AMG|
|19||23||Russell Ingall||Repair Management Aust Racing||Holden Commodore VF|
|20||36||Michael Caruso||Norton Hornets||Nissan Altima|
|21||21||Dale Wood||Team Advam/GB||Holden Commodore VF|
|22||18||Jack Perkins||Team JELD-WEN||Ford Falcon FG|
|DNF||34||Robert Dahlgren||Valvoline Racing GRM||Volvo S60|
|DNF||47||Tim Slade||Supercheap Auto Racing||Holden Commodore VF|