Superior stragegy and better race cars has clawed back some valuable points in the hunt for the V8 Supercar Championship on a rare day when the front-runners stumbled.
Pepsi Max Crew FPRs pair Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison scored a 1-2 in the first of two legs at the Sucrogen Townsville 400, with Lockwood Racing's Fabian Coulthard third. Poor qualifying left Championship leader Jamie Whincup battling into seventh from 15th and a reverse strategy put second-placed Craig Lowndes from 12th into fourth.
It allowed Davison and Winterbottom to edge back slightly in the points score, but as importantly know that their superior car speed, fuel economy and tyre preservation have worked in the first of the longer formats of the year since the opening event.
"I don't know how to say it but it's really good seeing those guys have a bad day, particularly in qualifying. It's hard to think about the Championship right now but we have got to stay in a good position," Davison said.
"We have just got to keep it going. If we can keep this improvement up and I can do a better endurance race than I did last year you never know what might happen come December."
Davison said he had been looking forward to a return to the long distance events with the Sucrogen Townsville 400 the first since the season opener in Adelaide.
It's a very satisfying win for me.
"I've been looking forward to this and it was a good race. We have showed lately we are on the up and every circuit is different. Absolutely come endurance time we are very confident.
"It's good to be a part of this, really good. I'm proud to be part of the team."
Shane Van Gisbergen took the race lead on lap three with a gutsy inside move with brakes locked on Will Davison. All this time Lowndes was tearing through the field in pursuit as the only man to start on soft tyres. His team played a psychological game by changing his tyres on the starting grid.
The young Kiwi was well within sight of Lowndes on soft tyres compared with the hard tyre until a disastrous mistake from his team at a pit stop. His team broke the rules by dropping the car with the re-fuelling hose still attached which attracts a mandatory penalty.
Van Gisbergen got a pit lane drive-through penalty for the fuel hose infringement, taking the heat off Lowndes out in front. The young Kiwi remained in the hunt, however, amongst the lead pack, until he had to refuel again, dropping him back to 18th.
Lowndes started from 12th and took the lead after just nine laps, passing 11 cars on the way. In contrast his team-mate Whincup battled on hard tyres amongst the mid pack.
From there Lowndes cleared out, knowing the field would pay him back once the 27 other cars put on their set of soft tyres.
Winterbottom was first to take the gamble on the life of the soft tyres by coming in with a whopping 41 laps to go for the tyres to last. Lowndes' tyres lasted 32 laps while Winterbottom was running fifth at the time of his change to the quicker compound.
Whincup was next to change. He left himself 38 laps to run on soft tyres.
Davison followed and quickly shot into second place catching Lowndes by as much as a second each lap, with Winterbottom behind him in pursuit. He got his man on lap 58 and Winterbottom did the same on lap 61.
"It was a really cool race from my standpoint," Davison said. "I really didn't know what was going to happen. Lowndsey was brave when he went to that strategy but good on him for having a crack.
"They were updating me with Craig's pace but I literally didn't know. As soon as I started seeing Craig's car I thought 'we could be on here' but I didn't think it was for a while.
"It's a very satisfying win for me."
Early damage in a mid-pack melee left Lee Holdsworth in the pits in his Irwin Racing Mercedes-Benz AMG E63, hoping he could at least get back in the race for a few laps to prepare for tomorrow's second 200-kilometre race of the weekend.
After Lowndes in fourth, the top 10 was Jason Bright, James Courtney, Jamie Whincup - who started 16th - Garth Tander, Alex Davison and Chaz Mostert. David Reynolds was the only FPR car to finish outside of the top 10 - he was 11th.
Whincup continues to lead the Championship from Lowndes, with a 135 point buffer. Coming into the event, Whincup had a 159 point lead.