Scott McLaughlin comfortably won his sixth race of the Supercars season at Queensland Raceway, while title rival Jamie Whincup lost a lot of points thanks to a slow pitstop.
McLaughlin had to pass Craig Lowndes twice to secure the win. Having been bested by the Triple Eight driver off the line, McLaughlin made a lead-changing pass on Lowndes at Turn 3 on the third lap of the race.
He then found himself behind the #888 Commodore again on Lap 12 immediately after making his stop, having been undercut by Lowndes who stopped on Lap 4.
But the battle for the lead barely lasted a lap, McLaughlin blasting past Lowndes on the run into Turn 1 the next time around.
From there, McLaughlin was able to manage the gap back to Chaz Mostert and secure his sixth win of the season by 3.2s.
“It’s been a fantastic day for us,” said McLaughlin. “It was an awesome battle [with Lowndes], we had two great battles.
“It’s always great with Lowndesy, he’s a champion of the sport.”
Having run second in the opening stint of the race behind McLaughlin, Prodrive Racing’s Mostert emerged from his Lap 11 stop in third behind McLaughlin and Lowndes, before being undercut by Tim Slade a lap later.
By Lap 19 he was able to use his superior tyre quality to pass Lowndes for third, and then slotted into second on Lap 28 when Slade ran wide at Turn 6.
“I was a bit worried in that first stint with the tyre degradation, but our car held on pretty good in that second stint,” said Mostert.
“We needed this podium after the last couple of rounds, hopefully we can build on this.”
Shane van Gisbergen came home third after a thrilling last-lap battle with Slade.
The Kiwi went the opposite way to most on strategy, waiting until Lap 21 to make his stop and then coming home with the tyre advantage. He quickly charged his way from eight to fourth, passing the likes of Mark Winterbottom, Rick Kelly, and Lowndes along the way.
That put him within striking distance of Slade in third place, van Gisbergen closing up on the back of the #14 Commodore with a couple of laps to go.
On the final lap he got on the outside of Slade at Turn 3, before a late dive inside into Turn 4 to grab the final spot on the podium.
“This track isn’t exciting to drive, but the racing is always awesome,” said van Gisbergen.
“I was just watching [Tim] when I was catching him and I could see where he was weak, and that was into Turn 3, he kept losing the rear.
“I knew into Turn 4 would be the biggest shot, he covered, and I just went there anyway.”
Lowndes finished fifth, ahead of Fabian Coulthard, who recovered from a difficult qualifying session by using a similar strategy to van Gisbergen and making up a lot of ground after a Lap 22 stop.
Percat finished seventh, from Kelly, Winterbottom, and David Reynolds.
For Jamie Whincup, it was a case of a the day going from bad to worse. Having been slugged with a five-spot grid penalty before the race for a qualifying infringement, any chance of a comeback from 14th on the grid was killed off by a dodgy air spike coupling that led to a very long stop.
The Townsville race winner then struggled to make ground once he got going again, coming home 20th and losing a lot of ground to McLaughlin in terms of championship points.
“One to forget today,” said Whincup. “Poor quali, then the grid penalty, and something happened on the pitstop, the spike didn’t go in. That was pretty much the end of our day.
“I didn’t have a huge amount of pace to come back through, because we stopped so early. What could go wrong did go wrong today.”
McLaughlin now leads the championship by 111 points from Whincup.
Race 1 Results:
|1||17||Scott McLaughlin||Ford Falcon FG-X||39|
|2||55||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG-X||39||3.2470|
|3||97||Shane van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore VF||39||4.7006|
|4||14||Tim Slade||Holden Commodore VF||39||5.1589|
|5||888||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore VF||39||9.0852|
|6||12||Fabian Coulthard||Ford Falcon FG-X||39||9.5797|
|7||8||Nick Percat||Holden Commodore VF||39||14.4562|
|8||15||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima||39||17.2439|
|9||5||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG-X||39||17.4372|
|10||9||David Reynolds||Holden Commodore VF||39||20.6650|
|11||33||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore VF||39||21.2536|
|12||18||Lee Holdsworth||Holden Commodore VF||39||21.7482|
|13||2||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore VF||39||23.0767|
|14||22||James Courtney||Holden Commodore VF||39||24.7500|
|15||23||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima||39||26.6375|
|16||6||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG-X||39||27.5144|
|17||19||Will Davison||Holden Commodore VF||39||32.0938|
|18||7||Todd Kelly||Nissan Altima||39||33.1717|
|19||28||Jack Le Brocq||Nissan Altima||39||39.1977|
|20||88||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore VF||39||39.5465|
|21||21||Tim Blanchard||Holden Commodore VF||39||40.1064|
|22||36||Todd Hazelwood||Holden Commodore VF||39||41.7360|
|23||99||Dale Wood||Holden Commodore VF||39||42.9318|
|24||31||James Golding||Holden Commodore VF||39||44.1119|
|25||26||Shae Davies||Nissan Altima||39||45.4063|
|26||3||Alex Davison||Holden Commodore VF||39||48.5001|
|27||78||Simona de Silvestro||Nissan Altima||37||2 laps|
|28||34||James Moffat||Holden Commodore VF||31||8 laps|
|56||Jason Bright||Ford Falcon FG-X||33|
|62||Alex Rullo||Holden Commodore VF||0|