Nick Percat won a storm-affected, shortened final race at the Clipsal 500 at Adelaide.
It all came down to minimum fuel drop, with a time-certain finish thanks to a mid-race red flag period meaning many crews hadn’t taken on the mandatory 140 litres when the race was re-started for a 10-minute sprint at the end.
The first driver in line that had taken on the fuel was Percat, and once Scott McLaughlin and Craig Lowndes both pitted on the final lap to take on more juice, the South Australian slipped into the lead of his home race, a lead that quickly turned into a Clipsal 500 title.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve watched this race since I was in a pram. The car was amazing in the dry, and I knew I had a good car in the wet. I couldn’t believe it coming into the last corner.”
DJR Team Penske pair Fabian Coulthard and Scott Pye technically finished second and third, but having neglected to pit at the finish were both handed 30-second penalties after the flag.
That gave Michael Caruso second – and the points lead – with Garth Tander in third.
Wet, Wet, Wet
The race kicked off behind the Safety Car thanks to a torrential downpour right before the start, the green flag not appearing until Lap 7.
Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard, and James Courtney all took their turn in the lead before Lowndes popped up out the front as the racing got more frantic.
There was a brief stint on slicks, led by Courtney, but it lasted less than 10 laps. Then the rain returned with a vengeance, leading to a Safety Car period, and ultimately the race suspension.
Turn 8 bites the front-runners
After a fairytale pole on Friday, Chaz Mostert’s comeback weekend ended with a thud on Sunday.
The Prodrive Racing Australia driver was in the hunt early on, surviving the first band of wet weather to be running third behind Lowndes and Courtney.
But Mostert was caught out on Lap 28 when it began to sprinkle, nudging the outside of the wall at the high-speed Turn 8, and ending up in the barrier down the escape road at Turn 9.
Mostert emerged from the wreck unhurt.
A few laps later, it was James Courtney’s turn to taste the concrete at the infamous corner.
The HRT driver had been in the game right from the start, surviving both spinning Jamie Whincup, and being spun by Shane van Gisbergen, to find himself running at the front.
But when the really serious storm hit on Lap 36, Courtney went flying into the concrete at Turn 8. He limped back to the pits, but his chances of victory were well and truly dashed.
“Before I even turned in it started aquaplaning, and it was all over,” said Courtney. “I was a passenger. The Safety Car was five seconds too late for me. Massively disappointing.”
Shocker for T8
Only one Triple Eight car made it into the Top 10, with van Gisbergen surviving a tangle with Courtney and a spin at the last corner to come out 10th.
Lowndes had the pace to win the race, running at the front before the weather turned really bad, but was caught out by the fuel drop and wound up 13th.
Whincup, meanwhile, was spun by a HRT Commodore early, spun on his own a few laps later, and ended the day down in 16th.