Reigning V8 Supercar Series champion Jamie Whincup started his title defense with a dramatic victory in the 2012 season opener in Adelaide.
The Triple Eight Holden driver used a three-stop strategy where others tried to stretch their fuel mileage on two pit visits. That set up a grandstand finish with the flying Whincup hunting down the leaders, and finally snatching first place from Ford Performance Racing's Will Davison on the last lap as the Falcon stuttered.
Whincup's victory came just six days after the death of his father, making the win as emotional as it was hard-earned.
While Davison still salvaged second, his teammate Mark Winterbottom – who had been running the same strategy – had to pit for fuel and tumbled from a likely podium finish to ninth.
Garth Tander (Holden Racing Team) led until deciding the fuel gamble would not work, but pitting with six laps left meant he could still finish third, ahead of polesitter Craig Lowndes (Triple Eight), whose afternoon was marred by a small mistake and a puncture – the save of which is worth mention. The Holden driver's left rear deflated just before the pit entry on the fast right-hander and Lowndes saved the slide and entered the lane broadside in what might end being the catch of the season.
He was thus able to make his final pit stop coincide with the tire damage, and moved back up the order as others pitted. He led home Lee Holdsworth, Fabian Coulthard, Rick Kelly, Todd Kelly, Winterbottom, Steven Johnson, Shane van Gisbergen and Tim Slade in a train of cars filling the top 12.
Tander's teammate James Courtney's season got off to a bad start when an apparent mechanical problem led to a heavy early crash at the 140mph Turn 8, that also eliminated Jason Bright and Taz Douglas. Bright was taken to a nearby hospital for checks following his impact with the wall.
Also in trouble were top-10 qualifiers David Reynolds, who crashed out again at Turn 8 (bringing out the safety car for a second time), and Jonathon Webb, who needed a long pit stop after brushing the wall.