Shane van Gisbergen and Alex Premat stormed to victory in the opening leg of the Castrol Gold Coast 600 despite a mid-race time penalty.
The pace-setter through practice and qualifying, Van Gisbergen watched on as Premat accelerated too soon on an early Safety Car restart, triggering a 10 second hold at his next stop.
The duo’s speed proved enough to overcome the setback to lead home the Scott McLaughlin/David Wall Volvo and second Jamie Whincup/Paul Dumbrell Red Bull Holden.
The race featured a two-lap sprint to the chequered flag after a major accident that saw Fabian Coulthard turned into the fence on the front straight by Garth Tander.
Coulthard, who had been holding down fifth, emerged from his heavily damaged Ford unscathed while Tander was dealt a drive-through and a 10 place grid penalty for tomorrow.
Mark Winterbottom/Dean Canto used an alternate strategy to score fourth ahead of James Moffat and James Golding, whose result came despite twice double stacking in the early stages.
Van Gisbergen now leads the championship by 160 points, while Premat has become the third Frenchman to win a Supercars race with Triple Eight behind Yvan Muller and Sebastien Bourdais.
Red Bull meanwhile now holds an unassailable lead over the Holden Racing Team in the Teams’ Championship.
“It was unfortunate to get the penalty but the car was amazing and we fought back,” smiled Van Gisbergen.
While the Coulthard/Tander clash was the most spectacular interruption, two early Safety Cars had scrambled the pit strategies for the 101 lap, 300km race.
Premat led Dumbrell through the first stint. The duo briefly swapped places on lap six before the former began to ease away.
Wall held down third before Winterbottom, who was the only primary driver to start, took the place during his charge through from ninth on the grid.
A crash from Jack Le Brocq on lap 23 triggered the first full course yellow, which saw the entire field dive in for an early first stop.
Premat remained in front for the restart ahead of Canto, now in Winterbottom’s car, Wall, Reindler and Dumbrell, who lost ground double-stacking behind his team-mate.
Accelerating away from the field too early ahead of the restart earned Premat his penalty in what has proven the Frenchman’s only fumble during the Pirtek Enduro Cup to date.
The Safety Car returned on lap 35 when Reindler tagged the Turn 3 concrete, ending a strong run for the Team 18 Holden.
Premat dived in to hand over to Van Gisbergen but was unable to serve his hold penalty due to the presence of the yellow flags.
Dumbrell led a seven-car train to stay out on the second yellow, while Canto and Van Gisbergen headed those to take on more fuel and rejoined at the back of the top 10.
Van Gisbergen came into his own in the next phase of the race, carving through to take the lead from Dumbrell by lap 51, making minor contact with the rear of the #88 as he did so.
His speed was such that he was able to make his third and final stop on lap 64 and retain the lead over the now Whincup-driven #88, despite having to serve his penalty.
McLaughlin had too been buried in the pack after pitting under the second yellow but emerged from his third stop between the Red Bulls.
The top three remained stagnant over the final stint to the flag despite the late restart.
In addition to boosting Van Gisbergen’s championship tilt, the result put the Kiwi and Premat in the box seat for the Pirtek Enduro Cup.
Closest rivals Will Davison/Jonathon Webb finished 16th after an early drive-through penalty for causing a multi-car pile-up at Turn 4 on lap 3.
Seventh-placed Webb bumped Dean Fiore into Craig Baird, who subsequently spun in front of the remainder of the field.
Baird was out on the spot, while the cars of Cameron McConville and Russell Ingall also took damage.
McConville battled on before a clash with Ash Walsh ended the #222 Holden’s day, halting a strong Enduro Cup campaign for the veteran and primary driver Nick Percat.
James Courtney meanwhile finished down the order after spending time in the garage attending to steering damage.
The race ran through its duration in overcast but dry conditions despite predictions that rain would hit in the closing stages.
Result: Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Castrol Gold Coast 600 Race 22
|1||Red Bull Racing Australia||S.Van Gisbergen/A.Premat||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:21:45.5490|
|2||Wilson Security Racing GRM||S.McLaughlin/D.Wall||Volvo S60||102||02:21:46.1597|
|3||Red Bull Racing Australia||J.Whincup/P.Dumbrell||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:21:46.6898|
|4||The Bottle-O Racing Team||M.Winterbottom/D.Canto||Ford Falcon FG/X||102||02:21:51.2088|
|5||Wilson Security Racing GRM||J.Moffat/J.Golding||Volvo S60||102||02:21:52.9219|
|6||TeamVortex||C.Lowndes/S.Richards||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:21:53.0739|
|7||GB Galvanizing Racing||D.Wood/D.Russell||Nissan Altima||102||02:21:54.1832|
|8||carsales Racing||T.Kelly/M.Campbell||Nissan Altima||102||02:21:55.2317|
|9||Supercheap Auto Racing||C.Mostert/S.Owen||Ford Falcon FG/X||102||02:21:56.3776|
|10||Super Black Racing||C.Pither/R.Stanaway||Ford Falcon FG/X||102||02:21:57.6039|
|11||Freightliner Racing||T.Slade/A.Walsh||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:21:57.8579|
|12||Team BOC||J.Bright/A.Jones||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:21:58.0998|
|13||Plus Fitness Racing||A.Heimgartner/A.Russell||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:21:58.5743|
|14||Team Cooldrive||T.Blanchard/M.Jones||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:21:58.9612|
|15||Holden Racing Team||G.Tander/W.Luff||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:22:22.1275|
|16||Team Darrell Lea STIX||W.Davison/J.Webb||Holden Commodore VF||102||02:22:33.2764|
|17||Nissan Motorsport||M.Caruso/D.Fiore||Nissan Altima||101||02:21:49.0556|
|18||DJR Team Penske||S.Pye/T.D’Alberto||Ford Falcon FG/X||101||02:21:51.7944|
|19||Erebus Motorsport||S.Davies/C.van der Drift||Holden Commodore VF||101||02:21:56.8982|
|20||Holden Racing Team||J.Courtney/J.Perkins||Holden Commodore VF||97||02:21:59.9782|
|21||Sengled Motorsport||R.Kelly/R.Ingall||Nissan Altima||85||02:22:19.0752|
|DNF||DJR Team Penske||F.Coulthard/L.Youlden||Ford Falcon FG/X||95||02:07:56.7016|
|DNF||Preston Hire Racing||Karl Reindler||Holden Commodore VF||34||46:49.4621|
|DNF||Monster Energy Racing||Jack Le Brocq||Ford Falcon FG/X||21||26:09.6960|
|DNF||Clipsal 500 Adelaide Racing||Cameron McConville||Holden Commodore VF||18||22:42.5490|
|DNF||Erebus Motorsport Penrite||Craig Baird||Holden Commodore VF||4||7:08.7155|
|1||Shane Van Gisbergen||2674|
|45||Jack Le Brocq||240|
|46||Chris van der Drift||234|
|52||Simona de Slvestro||126|