Chaz Mostert won a wild opening Supercars race at Albert Park that saw Shane van Gisbergen go from last to third.
The field was almost perfectly split in terms of tyre strategy for the opening 20-lap race, with 13 cars starting on the soft tyre and 12 on the hard. Tyres were perfectly represented at the front of the field, where the likes of David Reynolds and Mostert started on the soft and Anton De Pasquale and Will Davison started on the hard. That made life easy on polesitter Reynolds at the start, although Mostert was able to clear the DJR cars at the first corner to make sure he stayed on Reynolds’ bumper.
It quickly became evident that the WAU car was quicker than the Grove Mustang, Mostert passing Reynolds to grab the lead at the last corner on Lap 3.
From there Mostert was able to comfortably lead the first stint until pitting to switch to hard compound tyres on Lap 7.
By that point both DJR cars had already pitted for softs, which gave them the undercut needed to jump Mostert, with De Pasquale leading Davison. However, having stopped on Lap 3 (Davison) and Lap 4 (De Pasquale), it was going to be difficult to make the softs last until the end. Mostert caught the Shell Fords with nine laps to go, first passing Davison for second before passing De Pasquale for the lead at Turn 11 two laps later. From there Mostert was free to cruise to a 7.6s win.
“I don’t think many people expected the race to be what it was,” said Mostert. “Strategy helped our race. We went aggressive and it ended up being the safer option.
“I’m just happy, any time you win in this category it’s amazing. We weren’t that strong through practice and qualifying but the car is getting faster and faster.”
Things only got worse for the DJR cars in the closing stages of the race as they tried to nurse the softs to the end. Davison was quickly caught and passed by Reynolds before deciding to make a second stop to change back to hards, which dropped him to 16th at the finish. De Pasquale, meanwhile, suffered a right-rear tyre failure with four laps to go and ended up way down in 23rd. Reynolds was able to hold on to second place at the finish, although he did so under some pressure from Shane van Gisbergen.
The Kiwi put in a masterful drive from the very back of the grid to end up third thanks to some sharp strategic work and excellent on-track passing. Starting on the softs, van Gisbergen went from dead last to 16th on the first lap and was inside the Top 10 by Lap 5. He then jumped onto the hard tyre for the second stint and continued his march forward. The podium winning move came on Nick Percat with a couple of laps to go, sealing the remarkable comeback following his qualifying dramas.
Tim Slade ended up fourth after also getting through Percat at the end, while Macauley Jones put in a very solid drive to grab sixth place. Mark Winterbottom was seventh followed by Broc Feeney, Garry Jacobson and Bryce Fullwood. Van Gisbergen now leads the championship by 129 points over De Pasquale, with Mostert in third, 131 points adrift.
The Melbourne 400 continues with two 20-lap sprint races tomorrow.