Mark Winterbottom snapped a near eight month victory drought by holding on in another thrilling V8 Supercars finish at Barbagallo.
As expected, the 200km Race 9 proved a battle of tyre strategy on the high degradation Perth layout.
Winterbottom and eventual second place finisher Scott McLaughlin ran two-stop strategies, while the bulk of the field opted for three.
Starting third, Winterbottom had slipped back to sixth off the start before the different strategies began to unfold.
Front-row starter Craig Lowndes eventually emerged as the best of those to run three-stop strategies, but found himself stuck behind McLaughlin who overtook the Caltex Holden as the final stint began.
McLaughlin and Lowndes both had tyres that were seven laps newer than Winterbottom’s for the run to the flag, allowing them to rapidly cut into the Ford driver’s margin.
Winterbottom appeared to be dealt a major blow when he lost time as Aaren Russell unlapped himself with five laps to go, but held on to win by 0.3s regardless.
“I thought we were in trouble before the start with a set of tyres short,” said Winterbottom, having used two sets on Saturday while trying to recover from an early off.
“It’s awesome after yesterday, where I drove horribly. I hope that redeemed it.
“I thought Aaren Russell ruined my race there, it cost two seconds, I thought it was over.
“But by the time they got to me they weren’t on new tyres and Scotty was pretty nice to me as well.”
McLaughlin, Lowndes and eventual fourth place finisher Shane van Gisbergen had arrived onto the back of Winterbottom with two laps remaining but could not find a way by.
Rick Kelly and Chaz Mostert were among the front-runners throughout on their way to fifth and sixth respectively.
Garth Tander, James Courtney, Michael Caruso and Will Davison completed the top 10.
Jamie Whincup came home 11th after pitting early at each of his three stops proved costly.
Although initially vaulting him to the front, the six-time champ subsequently had older tyres than his rivals for much of the race and fell down the order.
Lee Holdsworth, Fabian Coulthard and James Moffat were the only drivers to join Winterbottom and McLaughlin on the two-stop strategy, but all finished down the order.
Lowndes has jumped to the top of the championship standings with a 42 point margin over Whincup.
McLaughlin has dropped to third while Winterbottom, who became the eighth winner from nine races, has moved to fourth.
Result: Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Race 9
|1||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG/X||83||01:22:22.8550|
|2||Wilson Security Racing GRM||Scott McLaughlin||Volvo S60||83||01:22:23.1617|
|3||TeamVortex||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:23.6339|
|4||Red Bull Racing Australia||Shane Van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:24.2332|
|5||Nissan Motorsport||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||83||01:22:24.5719|
|6||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG/X||83||01:22:28.0176|
|7||Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:28.2851|
|8||Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:29.3123|
|9||Nissan Motorsport||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||83||01:22:29.9848|
|10||Team Darrell Lea STIX||Will Davison||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:32.6087|
|11||Red Bull Racing Australia||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:40.9470|
|12||Preston Hire Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:41.2196|
|13||Team BOC||Jason Bright||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:46.0786|
|14||Super Black Racing||Chris Pither||Ford Falcon FG/X||83||01:22:46.6303|
|15||DJR Team Penske||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG/X||83||01:22:48.5162|
|16||Freightliner Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:22:50.4992|
|17||Wilson Security Racing GRM||James Moffat||Volvo S60||83||01:22:52.9899|
|18||ABRO/Repair Management Aust||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:23:00.4501|
|19||DJR Team Penske||Scott Pye||Ford Falcon FG/X||83||01:23:02.2693|
|20||GB Galvanizing Racing||Dale Wood||Nissan Altima||83||01:23:05.7926|
|21||Erebus Motorsport Penrite||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:23:06.7519|
|22||Team Cooldrive||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:23:07.4353|
|23||carsales Racing||Todd Kelly||Nissan Altima||83||01:23:08.8178|
|24||Plus Fitness Racing||Aaren Russell||Holden Commodore VF||83||01:23:21.7463|
|25||ABRO/Repair Management Aust||Andre Heimgartner||Holden Commodore VF||82||01:22:55.2303|
|26||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG/X||82||01:23:16.5456|
|5||Shane Van Gisbergen||803|