Will Davison emerged as the winner from a crazy Sunday race at Symmons Plains, which saw leaders Shane van Gisbergen and Mark Winterbottom caught out by oil with just a couple of laps to go.
For the majority of the 84-lap race, it seemed as if it was going to be between van Gisbergen and Winterbottom. But when Cam Waters’s Ford lunched itself at the hairpin with a few laps to go, the leaders went missing and Davison snuck through to take a shock win.
The early stages
The race started off as a Battle of the Bulls, van Gisbergen and Whincup quickly clearing pole-sitter Winterbottom to set about squabbling over the lead.
On Lap 5 the complexion of the race changed when Chris Pither was spun exiting the hairpin, the Super Black Ford hitting the wall hard. The resulting Safety Car saw the entire field take the pit-lane – which was terrible news for Whincup. The #88 was forced to stack behind van Gisbergen, Whincup tumbling from P2 to P13 while SVG and Winterbottom continued to lead the way.
Whincup did make some headway, quickly working his way into the Top 10 before pitting on Lap 39 from P8 to try and get out of traffic.
And that was essentially the end of his race. On the out-lap, Whincup uncharacteristically buried it at the hairpin, his chances of a decent haul of points all over.
The stranded #88 sparked a second Safety Car period, which reignited the battle at the front between van Gisbergen and Winterbottom. The Kiwi had managed to gap Winterbottom after the first stop, but with the pair pitting a lap apart when the second SC came out, van Gisbergen had to hustle – with the track under full caution – to keep the Prodrive Ford behind him.
Once the race re-started it was similar story at the front. Van Gisbergen had the pace the keep Winterbottom at arm’s length, before the pair spent the last 30-odd laps of the race barely separated by a second.
Then, with just a handful of laps left, things changed again. Leaders van Gisbergen and Winterbottom were both caught out by oil left the hairpin by Cam Waters’s car, sending them both wide.
And just like that, Will Davison was leading the race. Having just passed Craig Lowndes for third a couple of laps earlier, Davison managed to safely navigate the oil and emerge in the lead.
From there, he only had to hang on for a couple of laps to take an incredible win ahead of Lowndes.
“I’m speechless,” said Davison. “I was pretty happy to bring home a top four.
“I didn’t have the outright speed, but I had really good tyre life at the end, and obviously the oil caught us out. Unreal.”
Winterbottom, who kept it on the bitumen after running wide, held on for third. Van Gisbergen, however, was bogged for the last handful of laps and classified way back in 21st, two spots behind Whincup.
“The first [off] was just a rookie error,” admitted Whincup. “I’m gutted for the whole team, and Shane as well. To end up with no result is a bit hard to take. But that’s motorsport.”
Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin went from fifth to fourth as part of the late madness, having made both of his stops behind the Safety Car and then hunting down Chaz Mostert with 14 laps to go.
The Holden Racing Team cars finished sixth and seventh, a significant turnaround after struggling in qualifying. Garth Tander put in a typical bruising drive to finish best of the red Commodores, James Courtney making some moves late to take P7.
Nissan de-railed by brakes
It was tough day for Nissan, Michael Caruso the best placed Altima back in P11. But it could have been so much better; Rick Kelly looked very racey early on, having found himself running in the Top 3 thanks to using the same early stop strategy as Lowndes.
But his chances of a good result went begging after the second round of stops when a master cylinder problem saw his front brakes fade completely away, resulting in an impressive spin at the hairpin. The former series champ tried to drive through the problem, but the problem ultimately proved terminal.