DJR Team Penske has taken its first ever victory in the American-Australian operation’s current incarnation, in a race which ended under Safety Car after a frightening crash for Nick Percat and Lee Holdsworth.
Scott McLaughlin led Fabian Coulthard across the line after 13 laps at Albert Park, the latter having lost the lead when he ran off on Lap 1.
However, there was heartache for Brad Jones Racing and Team 18 when Percat appeared to suffer brake failure at Turn 1 on the penultimate lap.
The Holden ‘Supporting Equality’ Commodore backed into the rear corner of Holdsworth’s Preston Hire machine at an estimated 250km/h, continuing through the gravel trap before coming to rest against the wall.
Percat, who extricated himself from the wreck but appeared winded, gestured to Holdsworth that he had lost his brakes.
Team owner Brad Jones told trackside commentary, “I think he had a brake failure but it’s really hard to tell.”
Meanwhile, Team 18 owner Charlie Schwerkolt, who incurred a write-off which sidelined Holdsworth with knee and rib fractures after a crash at Hidden Valley last year, was visibly emotional about the incident.
“To have that happen to us is just devastating,” he said.
“Christ almighty, I can’t believe it. Just one of those racing incidents, what can you do?”
At the front of the field, Coulthard looked to have thrown away DJR Team Penske’s first Supercars race win when he ran off at Turn 3 on the opening lap.
Not only did the pole-sitter briefly drop to fourth, he also forced McLaughlin wide, allowing Jamie Whincup to steal the lead.
McLaughlin, however, kept the pressure up on the Red Bull HRT driver and took the lead in the car park section on Lap 3.
The Kiwi made room for his team-mate and compatriot Coulthard in the process, as well as Supercheap Auto Racing’s Chaz Mostert, who took third.
The two Shell V-Power Falcons ran line astern until McLaughlin began to gap Coulthard halfway through the piece, while Mostert and Whincup also fell away.
There were no further changes to the top four by the time the field cruised past the chequered flag, but an apparent puncture for Tim Slade cost the #14 BJR entry fifth.
That instead fell to Nissan Motorsport’s Michael Caruso, while Shane van Gisbergen lamented “no straight-line handling” as he finished sixth.
James Moffat, Mark Winterbottom, David Reynolds, and James Courtney completed the top 10.
Simona de Silvestro kept her nose clean to finish a personal-best 13th, despite being proximate to the Percat-Holdsworth crunch.
Craig Lowndes made only three positions up over the course of the race to finish 16th.
Jason Bright ran as high as eighth before being muscled wide by Moffat on Lap 5, then suffered an off later that lap and a spin in the dying stages.
The second non-championship race, to again be run over 13 laps, starts this afternoon at 17:50 AEDT.
Results: Virgin Australia Supercars Championship – Australian Grand Prix, Race One:
|1||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:57.0198*|
|2||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:57.0767|
|3||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:57.4319|
|4||Red Bull Holden Racing Aust||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore VF||1:57.8264|
|5||Nissan Motorsport||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||1:57.7091|
|6||Red Bull Holden Racing Aust||Shane Van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore VF||1:57.6744|
|7||Wilson Security Racing GRM||James Moffat||Holden Commodore VF||1:58.1319|
|8||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:57.8513|
|9||Erebus Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore VF||1:57.7650|
|10||Mobil 1 HSV Racing||James Courtney||Holden Commodore VF||1:57.7428|
|11||TEKNO Woodstock Racing||Will Davison||Holden Commodore VF||1:58.3704|
|12||carsales Racing||Todd Kelly||Nissan Altima||1:58.3300|
|13||Team Harvey Norman||Simona De Silvestro||Nissan Altima||1:58.5857|
|14||Mobil 1 HSV Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore VF||1:58.2029|
|15||Erebus GB Galvanizing Racing||Dale Wood||Holden Commodore VF||1:58.7814|
|16||TeamVortex||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore VF||1:58.4402|
|17||Team CoolDrive||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore VF||1:57.9593|
|18||LD Motorsport||Taz Douglas||Holden Commodore VF||2:00.0315|
|19||Monster Energy Racing||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:58.1804|
|20||LD Motorsport||Alex Rullo||Holden Commodore VF||2:00.2395|
|21||MEGA Racing||Jason Bright||Ford Falcon FG/X||1:58.7823|
|DNF||Sengled Racing||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||1:57.5763|
|DNF||Preston Hire Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore VF||1:58.2004|
|DNF||Team Clipsal||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore VF||1:58.2680|
|DNF||Freightliner Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore VF||1:57.5384|
|DNF||Wilson Security Racing GRM||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore VF||1:58.9046|