Jamie Whincup and Sebastien Bourdais held on to claim victory in a wild first race of V8 Supercars' Surfers Paradise weekend.
The international co-drivers took the start, but it took three attempts to get the race going as accidents interrupted proceedings. The first crash was the largest. A chain reaction from IndyCar racer James Hinchcliffe's slow start ended in contact between the Canadian, Tonio Liuzzi, Simon Pagenaud and Ricky Taylor, with the latter launched into a roll.
Everyone was unhurt and the wreckage quickly cleared, but there was more carnage at the second try, this time when Nicolas Minassian stalled and was collected by his sometime Peugeot Le Mans teammate Franck Montagny.
A clean start was finally achieved at the third attempt. Mika Salo managed to jump Bourdais for the lead, and that set up a spectacular long dice between the ex-Formula 1 pair in the Ford Performance Racing Falcon and Triple Eight Holden.
Despite everything Bourdais threw at him, Salo was able to hold off the four-time Champ Car champion throughout the first stint. Although Bourdais managed to slip ahead a few times, he always cut chicanes in doing so and had to relinquish the place.
In the event, Bourdais need not have tried so hard, as Triple Eight jumped FPR in the pit stops and Salo's partner Will Davison then hit the wall on his out-lap, in another huge blow to his title chances.
That left Whincup five seconds clear of James Courtney, with Jonathon Webb and Garth Tander next up, the latter having come through from 24th on the grid thanks to a strong first stint by Ryan Briscoe and a well-timed pit stop before one of the many safety cars.
A late caution for debris closed things up again. As Courtney's tires faded, Webb – whose co-driver Marc Lieb had kept up with Salo and Bourdais for a while early on – passed him and stepped up to challenge Whincup. The Tekno driver stayed right on Whincup's tail to the flag, and although never quite able to pass, finished just 0.4 second adrift for his second V8 podium result.
Mark Winterbottom surged through the field in the closing laps to take third for FPR, catching up with Whincup and Webb's lead battle by the end.
Tander hung on for fourth. David Reynolds' late efforts to pass him ended in contact and damage for the Ford, and thereafter Tander was able to resist Tim Slade and Craig Lowndes to take the place. Tander's HRT teammate Courtney eventually fell back to seventh.
Rick Kelly led the next group home for eighth. His co-driver Graham Rahal had earlier enjoyed a spectacular long battle with Courtney's partner Darren Turner.
Results - 79 laps:
Pos Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Whincup/Bourdais Triple Eight Holden 1h45m10.0919s
2. Webb/Lieb Tekno Holden + 0.4647s
3. Winterbottom/Power FPR Ford + 1.0893s
4. Tander/Briscoe HRT Holden + 12.2211s
5. Slade/Brabham Rosenberg/SBR Ford + 12.9548s
6. Lowndes/Lyons Triple Eight Holden + 14.6256s
7. Courtney/Turner HRT Holden + 17.1494s
8. Kelly/Rahal Kelly Holden + 21.5720s
9. Ingall/Dumbreck Walkinshaw/HRT Holden + 22.0760s
10. van Gisbergen/Bleekemolen Stone Brothers Ford + 22.5905s
11. Patrizi/di Grassi Tekno Holden + 23.7514s
12. Bright/Sarrazin Brad Jones Holden + 23.9662s
13. Murphy/Wilson Kelly Holden + 25.1239s
14. Douglas/Conway Dumbrell Holden + 25.4685s
15. Wall/Campbell-Walter Britek/BJR Holden + 55.0786s
16. Johnson/Papis Dick Johnson Ford + 1 lap
17. Fiore/Morbidelli Triple F/DJR Ford + 2 laps
18. Davison/Salo FPR Ford + 16 laps
Reynolds/Heidfeld Rod Nash/FPR Ford 66 laps
Owen/Said Paul Morris/DJR Ford 40 laps
Blanchard/Andretti Kelly Holden 19 laps
Moffat/Kox Dick Johnson Ford 18 laps
Holdsworth/Pagenaud Stone Brothers Ford 0 laps
D'Alberto/Liuzzi D'Alberto Ford 0 laps
Coulthard/Minassian Brad Jones Holden 0 laps
Caruso/Hinchcliffe Garry Rogers Holden 0 laps
Reindler/Montagny Kelly Holden 0 laps
Ritter/Taylor Garry Rogers Holden 0 laps