Jim Beam Racing's James Courtney made it three Australian V8 Supercar wins in a row after another dominant victory, taking the first race at Winton Motor Raceway in comfortable style.
Courtney lost the lead at the start to Garth Tander but after a slow pit stop for the HRT driver, his only major drama for the rest of the race came when Jamie Whincup exited the pits the next lap around.
The two went through the first two turns ducking and diving, Whincup on cold tires trying to defend from the up-to-speed Courtney, but in the end Courtney drove around the outside to take the position and was never under serious threat from then on, and is now just three points off the championship lead.
Second was taken by Craig Lowndes, which would have been a surprise after being the second-last car to pit on lap 20 of 40 and dropping to 14th. But his fresher tires proved to be a huge advantage in the second half of the race, picking off drivers at will.
In just 11 laps from lap 21 to 32 he moved from 14th place to second. He then closed on Courtney at the end but was still four seconds away at the finish.
His teammate Jamie Whincup was next, despite losing the two places he gained at the start following contact from Steven Richards into Turn 1. He quickly moved up to third after passing some fast cars, moving up to second after Tander's tardy pit stop. He then spent most of the second half of the race fending off Courtney's teammate Steven Johnson, who moved up from seventh before the stops, before Lowndes zipped past both of them with less than 10 laps to go.
Shane van Gisbergen was next in fifth place, pulling off a Lowndes-like charge to move from 13th early in the race and then 19th on lap 20 just after his pit stop to take 14 positions away in 20 laps.
In the closing laps, he made his way through an angry pack, which began with just Todd Kelly, the delayed Garth Tander and Michael Caruso, but got bigger as the race went on as the two FPR cars faded and other cars behind caught up.
Fifth and sixth with eight laps to go, the two FPR cars of Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards ended up 15th and 14th, Winterbottom set for a top-10 result until he made contact while defending against a charging Jonathon Webb on the final lap, Winterbottom losing seven places, Webb dropping to 26th.
Another pair of teammates were big losers with just over a lap remaining. As Webb dived inside Holden Racing Team's Will Davison at the second-last corner on the second-to-last lap, teammate Garth Tander, who had been passed by Davison on the previous lap, dived for the gap Webb's pass had opened.
However, the two made contact, with both cars sent into a spin. They started the final lap in 17th and 19th, respectively for Davison and Tander but other dramas on the final lap saw Tander finish 17th with Davison dropping down to 22nd.
Pos Driver Make Time
1. James Courtney Ford Falcon FG 57:49.1567s
2. Craig Lowndes Holden Commodore VE + 3.8028s
3. Jamie Whincup Holden Commodore VE + 16.4431s
4. Steven Johnson Ford Falcon FG + 17.5864s
5. Shane Van Gisbergen Ford Falcon FG + 20.3313s
6. Todd Kelly Holden Commodore VE + 34.0635s
7. Jason Bright Holden Commodore VE + 35.7396s
8. Michael Caruso Holden Commodore VE + 38.0468s
9. Tony D'Alberto Holden Commodore VE + 38.7479s
10. Lee Holdsworth Holden Commodore VE + 39.4962s
11. Russell Ingall Holden Commodore VE + 40.8585s
12. Tim Slade Ford Falcon FG + 42.7408s
13. Greg Murphy Holden Commodore VE + 44.0308s
14. Steven Richards Ford Falcon FG + 44.3937s
15. Mark Winterbottom Ford Falcon FG + 45.3787s
16. Alex Davison Ford Falcon FG + 48.2922s
17. Garth Tander Holden Commodore VE + 50.8072s
18. Rick Kelly Holden Commodore VE + 51.0292s
19. Jason Richards Holden Commodore VE + 51.4343s
20. Fabian Coulthard Holden Commodore VE + 51.8741s
21. Karl Reindler Holden Commodore VE + 52.4142s
22. Will Davison Holden Commodore VE + 59.9937s
23. Jason Bargwanna Holden Commodore VE +1m04.3158s
24. Dean Fiore Ford Falcon FG +1m04.3815s
25. Daniel Gaunt Holden Commodore VE +1m08.2855s
26. Jonathon Webb Ford Falcon FG +1m12.4127s
27. Tony Ricciardello Holden Commodore VE +1m12.9697s
28. Paul Dumbrell Ford Falcon FG +1m27.9809s
Driver Make Laps
Andrew Thompson Holden Commodore VE 1