Jamie Whincup extended his V8 Supercars points lead by securing his fourth win of the season in the opening race of the Townsville weekend.
Poleman Mark Winterbottom had looked like the man to beat for the first half of the race. With the leading qualifiers all getting their hard tyres out of the way in the opening stint, those starting on softs were able to hack their way through the field. While this resulted in Dick Johnson Racing's Steve Owen and Holden Racing Team driver Garth Tander reaching the front, amid the battles Winterbottom (Ford Performance Racing) was able to make a break from the rest of the FPR/Triple Eight powerhouse group.
But Whincup was back on his tail by the middle of the race, and got past at the restart from the third safety car period of the day. With the yellows prompting a variety of strategies, it was a while before out-of-sequence cars pitted and allowed Whincup and Winterbottom back to the front, and once there, they had to nurse dwindling fuel loads to the flag, but Whincup did so successfully to claim victory by a second.
Great strategy and a charging drive took Tander to an eventual third place, ahead of Brad Jones Racing's Fabian Coulthard, as making an additional pitstop under the second safety car paid off for both men.
Whincup's team-mate Craig Lowndes lost a lot of places queuing in the pits behind the #1 car as they stopped under yellow, but he surged back up to fifth. Winterbottom's title-chasing team-mate Will Davison was delayed in the same manner and could only recover to 12th.
Front row starter David Reynolds (Rod Nash/FPR) lost ground at the first stops and was sixth, fending off Owen, Rick Kelly (Kelly Racing) and Lee Holdsworth (Stone Brothers).
Tander's team-mate James Courtney used a similar strategy to come through from 23rd to 10th, just ahead of Walkinshaw's Russell Ingall, whose pit tactics allowed him to lead for a while.
Jacques Villeneuve's tough weekend continued. The 1997 Formula 1 world champion made it as high as 12th as strategies played out, before having to retire his Kelly Holden in the pits. The Canadian, whose previous V8 experience comes from the Surfers Paradise international guest race, is standing in for Greg Murphy this weekend as the latter continues to recover from a back injury.
Results - 72 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jamie Whincup Triple 8 Holden 1h36m36.6067s 2. Mark Winterbottom FPR Ford + 1.1504s 3. Garth Tander HRT Holden + 9.0783s 4. Fabian Coulthard Brad Jones Holden + 13.9352s 5. Craig Lowndes Triple 8 Holden + 15.9831s 6. David Reynolds Rod Nash/FPR Ford + 24.0944s 7. Steve Owen Dick Johnson Ford + 25.3326s 8. Rick Kelly Kelly Holden + 26.2152s 9. Lee Holdsworth Stone Brothers Ford + 27.5602s 10. James Courtney HRT Holden + 33.9709s 11. Russell Ingall Walkinshaw Holden + 34.7180s 12. Will Davison FPR Ford + 37.7530s 13. James Moffat Dick Johnson Ford + 39.7171s 14. Michael Caruso Garry Rogers Holden + 39.8944s 15. Todd Kelly Kelly Holden + 51.2934s 16. Michael Patrizi Tekno Holden + 58.9084s 17. Steven Johnson Dick Johnson Ford + 59.2955s 18. Tony D'Alberto D'Alberto Ford + 1m09.5269s 19. Jonathon Webb Tekno Holden + 1 lap 20. David Wall Britek/BJR Holden + 1 lap 21. Tim Slade Rosenberg/SBR Ford + 1 lap 22. Shane van Gisbergen Stone Brothers Ford + 1 lap 23. Taz Douglas Dumbrell Holden + 3 laps 24. Dean Fiore Triple F Ford + 6 laps 25. Karl Reindler Kelly Holden + 12 laps Retirements: Jason Bright Brad Jones Holden 38 laps Alexandre Premat Garry Rogers Holden 30 laps Jacques Villeneuve Kelly Holden 18 laps