Scott McLaughlin has seen off a genuine challenge from Will Davison to claim a record-equalling 16th Supercars Championship race win in a season in Race 22 at The Bend.
McLaughlin dropped back to third off the start and ran an effective second for the majority of the first 20 laps before Davison surrendered the lead having suffered an airbox fire during his second compulsory pit stop.
That moment all but settled the contest at the very front of the field, with McLaughlin ultimately cruising to a 2.47s victory after 41 laps in the #17 Shell V-Power Racing Team Mustang.
Second position, however, became a genuine contest between Tickford Racing stablemates Davison (#23 Milwaukee Mustang) and Chaz Mostert (#55 Supercheap Auto Mustang), with the battle resolved in favour of the former.
Nick Percat (#8 X Convenience ZB Commodore) was the beneficiary of a late Jamie Whincup error to be the first of the Holden drivers home, in fourth position.
Whincup (#88 ZB Commodore) remained fifth for the final five-and-a-half laps, one position ahead of team-mate Shane van Gibsergen, who brought the #97 Red Bull HRT ZB Commodore up from 16th on the grid.
Davison had jumped McLaughlin from the outside of the front row and Whincup also bested the Armor All Pole-sitter to slot into second position by the time they got to Turn 1.
Mostert took up fourth and Nick Percat swept around the outside to assume fifth position, while Shane van Gisbergen jumped from 16th on the grid to 12th in the opening corners.
Whincup had a look at Davison at Turn 3 on Lap 2 but had to get out of it and that allowed McLaughlin to just round him up through the Turn 5 sweep.
The manoeuvres let Davison to briefly skip 1.5s clear but McLaughlin dropped Whincup and caught the leader before the end of the following lap.
Davison pinched a brake at Turn 17 on Lap 6 but survived, and McLaughlin continued to stalk the 23Red Mustang until he pitted at the end of Lap 9.
The championship leader took on approximately 36 litres of the required 120-litre fuel fill, which prompted Tickford to call Davison in a lap later and sink around 31 litres in order to ensure they maintained track position.
Mostert caught and then passed Whincup at Turn 14 on Lap 10 after the Triple Eight driver slid off Turn 13, but they swapped positions in the first pit stop cycle, during which Whincup took about 34 litres and Mostert, 33.
Van Gisbergen, who had made no more progress on the race track, was the last to undergo his first CPS at the end of Lap 15, with almost 50 litres put into the #97 ZB Commodore before he continued in 12th position.
Davison had resumed after his first stop with a bit over a second on McLaughlin but that margin grew to 1.6s by the time the latter pitted for a second time at the end of Lap 17.
Again, Tickford moved to cover off the undercut but an airbox fire caused Car #23 to dive twice in pit lane and Davison emerged about 1.8s behind McLaughlin once the gap normalised on his out lap.
Davison’s engineer, Brendan Hogan, reportedly estimated that his driver had lost two seconds due to the drama.
Meanwhile, Mostert again moved by Whincup on the road, at Turn 1 on Lap 15 before he pitted nearly six laps later and filed in around two seconds behind Davison in effective third position.
Whincup slotted back into effective fourth position, at a deficit of about 1.6s to Mostert, when he completed his CPS obligations on Lap 22.
Percat followed Whincup into the lane and maintained the effective fifth position which he had held since the first corner.
Mostert caught Davison by Lap 23 and Whincup was soon lurking behind them as McLaughlin pulled a gap.
McLaughlin moved the lead past five seconds for the first time on Lap 32, at which time Davison was still holding Mostert up, but Whincup had by then dropped a couple of seconds to the #55 Mustang.
Mostert, however, also soon started giving up ground to the car in front and eventually took the chequered flag 1.16s behind Davison.
McLaughlin was well clear by then, however, and now matches Craig Lowndes record feat of 16 ATCC/Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race wins in a single season.
“It’s really awesome,” said the Kiwi of equalling the record.
“Just probably more proud of the guys for the turnaround we’ve had coming here.
“I said yesterday, it’s one that we circled to really come back for. So stoked.
“That was super racing there at the start, didn’t quite get the best start. But good racing towards the end.”
While Mostert missed out on second place on the day, he has moved up to that position in the championship after Fabian Coulthard finished 10th in the second DJR Team Penske entry, although the Tickford driver faces a 573-point margin to McLaughlin.
“Look it’s been fantastic,” said Mostert when reminded where he now sits in the standings.
“Like I said, the last couple of rounds have been pretty good for us. It’s always great when you get to get up here.
“Today, just a bit of a bad start, fell back, but I was lucky enough to have the car pace to get back on the podium.”
Whincup looked like collecting fourth until he toured the grass at the Turn 8/Turn 9/Turn 10 complex on Lap 36, handing the spot to Percat.
Van Gisbergen found himself in sixth position after serving his second CPS and that was where the 2016 champion remained, while the top 10 was rounded out by Anton De Pasquale (#99 Penrite Racing ZB Commodore), Cameron Waters (#6 Monster Energy Mustang), Lee Holdsworth (#5 The Bottle-O Mustang), and Coulthard (#12 Mustang).
Rick Kelly (#15 Castrol Altima) was first of the Nissans in 11th, David Reynolds (#9 Erebus ZB Commodore) had an off at the right-handers on his way to 13th, and Thomas Randle (#66 Scandia Mustang) was 17th in his second Supercars Championship race.
Andre Heimgartner (#7 Plus Fitness Altima) finished 20th after running in the top 10 early on but had to serve a drive-through for a refuelling breach at his first pit stop.
He was not sanctioned, however, for turning around team-mate Simona De Silvestro (#78 Harvey Norman Altima) at the Turn 6 hairpin in the latter stages.
De Silvestro was 22nd at the end, while wildcard Jack Smith (#4 SCT Logistics ZB Commodore) ensured all 26 cars completed all 41 laps as he rounded out the field.
The next event is the ITM Auckland SuperSprint, which will be held at Pukekohe Park Raceway from September 13-15.
Results: Race 22, OTR SuperSprint
|1||17||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Mustang GT||41||1:17:17.8585|
|2||23||Milwaukee Racing||Will Davison||Ford Mustang GT||41||1:17:20.3278|
|3||55||Supercheap Auto Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Mustang GT||41||1:17:21.4864|
|4||8||X Convenience Mobil Racing||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:17:32.3185|
|5||88||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:17:34.1841|
|6||97||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:17:38.3342|
|7||99||Penrite Racing||Anton De Pasquale||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:17:44.7709|
|8||6||Monster Energy Racing Team||Cameron Waters||Ford Mustang GT||41||1:17:46.6429|
|9||5||The Bottle-O Racing Team||Lee Holdsworth||Ford Mustang GT||41||1:17:47.0541|
|10||12||Shell V-Power Racing Team||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Mustang GT||41||1:17:49.6958|
|11||15||Castrol Racing||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||41||1:17:51.4109|
|12||14||Freightliner Racing||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:17:56.0736|
|13||9||Penrite Racing||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:02.1581|
|14||35||Unit Racing||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:04.0853|
|15||22||Mobil 1 MEGA Racing||James Courtney||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:07.7733|
|16||2||Mobil 1 MEGA Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:09.8807|
|17||66||Scandia Racing||Thomas Randle||Ford Mustang GT||41||1:18:10.1418|
|18||34||Boost Mobile Racing||James Golding||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:12.7757|
|19||3||RABBLE.club Racing||Garry Jacobson||Nissan Altima||41||1:18:16.8892|
|20||7||Plus Fitness Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Nissan Altima||41||1:18:20.2424|
|21||21||Team CoolDrive||Macauley Jones||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:22.0276|
|22||78||Team Harvey Norman||Simona De Silvestro||Nissan Altima||41||1:18:29.9531|
|23||18||Irwin Racing||Mark Winterbottom||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:32.9612|
|24||33||Boost Mobile Racing||Richie Stanaway||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:36.4740|
|25||19||Truck Assist TEKNO Racing||Jack Le Brocq||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:18:37.0381|
|26||4||SCT Logistics Racing||Jack Smith||Holden Commodore ZB||41||1:19:04.8850|
|4||Shane van Gisbergen||2122|
|10||Anton De Pasquale||1560|
|20||Simona De Silvestro||976|
|21||Jack Le Brocq||814|