Craig Lowndes led home Will Davison in today’s opening leg of the Clipsal 500 Adelaide and the start of a new era for V8 Supercars competition.
Despite the biggest technical upheaval in the history of the series, the 250km race was topped by the same two teams who dominated the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship, Lowndes putting in a crushing display of authority to beat Davison home by more than twenty seconds.
The win was the 90th in Lowndes staggering career, equaling all-time wins record holder Mark Skaife at the top of the table.
Jamie Whincup finished third for Red Bull Racing Australia to complete a 1-3 for the recently rebranded outfit.
I think (the new car) suits my style a bit better than last year.
A shorter early stint from Lowndes saw him pit early, gain track position, and then dominate the second half of the race – not even losing the lead when he took his second pit stop.
“It’s been sensational,” Lowndes said.
“Its’ been a hell of a Christmas for the team at Red Bull Racing Australia. To get out here in front of the massive crowd is sensational.
“I think (the new car) suits my style a bit better than last year. I can throw it through the corner and look after the tyres. We’ve still got more to come. I can’t say any more – it’s been a hell of a day.
“I can honestly say this is the best COTF car I’ve raced!”
Second-placed Davison also ran a different strategy, working his way forward from the bottom half of the top-10 having started the day in seventh palace.
“I didn’t see Craig the whole race,” he said.
“I was running quite a different strategy. I quite enjoyed it. They told me I was fourth when it thought I was third. This is a good start for FPR. Congrats to every single member of the team. These are tricky cars – but it’s an awesome start.”
Defending champion Jamie Whincup said his car lacked the pace to contend for the victory.
“We didn’t have quite enough speed, but got position when others dropped back,” he said.
“As the race went on I thought we would end up sixth or seventh, so I feel like I’ve stolen a podium today.”
French driver Alex Premat finished a career best fourth in his Fujitsu Racing GRM Holden, with James Courtney fifth.
Scott McLaughlin was another to notch a career best (solo-driving) performance in sixth with Garth Tander, Jonathon Webb, Alex Davison and Russell Ingall completed the Top 10.
Gearbox issues stopped Shane van Gisbergen from finishing his first race in a Holden – but his race had issues before his ultimate lap 62 demise.
A slow start from the Kiwi saw him drop to 10th at the end of the opening lap – though he was able to work his way back into podium contention later in the race before retiring.
Having qualified a brilliant second, Mark Winterbottom’s competitive race lasted until the end of the opening lap, when he pitted from the lead - another with a broken gearbox.
He would later rejoin for several laps at the end of the race, setting the fastest lap a few laps from home.
Fabian Coulthard’s Lockwood Racing Commodore was an early race leader and a podium contender until the final laps, when brake issues slowed his charge and dropped him to an ultimate 19th-place finish.
Rick Kelly was the first Nissan home in 11th, just two seconds outside of the Top-10. Kelly had run inside the Top five during the pit stop sequence. Tim Slade the best of the Erebus Racing E63 AMGs in 15th.
The two new manufacturers experienced mixed days, with Todd Kelly forced out of the race after sixteen laps having trailed oil for several laps prior to its demise, and Michael Caruso sidelined for several laps with a power steering pump issue.
In the Erebus Racing camp, Maro Engel failed to complete the formation lap but would later rejoin and finish the race as the final classified finisher, all three cars making it to the line.
Thirteen cars finished on the lead lap, the race completing its full 78-lap duration Safety Car free for just the third time in event history.
24 of 28 cars were classified as finishers in today’s tough race - one attended by 80,200 people – up more than 2,000 people on last year.