Mark Winterbottom escaped to victory in a spectacular first V8 Supercars race at Phillip Island, as his title rivals Jamie Whincup and Will Davison collided amid a wild dice for second place.
Shane van Gisbergen fought through from 11th on the grid to take second in the Stone Brothers Ford, while his team-mate Tim Slade fended off Garth Tander (Holden Racing Team) for third.
Ford filled the podium, but for much of the race it looked like it would be the Ford Performance Racing team itself that took the top three sweep. The satellite FPR/Rod Nash car of David Reynolds had led the first stint, jumping ahead from second on the grid at the start and then resisting pressure from his FPR stablemates Winterbottom and Davison as he hunted for his first victory.
But this would not be Reynolds' day, as a split fuel hose ruined his race at the pit stops. The crew had to send him back out without refueling completed, and while this dropped Reynolds to fourth, he would eventually have to come back in to take on a full fuel load when the rig was repaired, leaving him 21st at the finish.
Davison ran one lap longer than Winterbottom before pitting and emerged with a narrow lead, though it only lasted a few laps before Winterbottom got back ahead in bold style, the two teammates running side by side through several high-speed corners until Winterbottom was able to edge decisively ahead.
A late safety car to deal with geese wandering onto the track – not for the first time in a Phillip Island V8 event – closed the pack up with six laps to go. Winterbottom made a break at the restart, while the charging van Gisbergen attacked Davison for second.
This started a ferocious multi-car battle in which Slade, Whincup and Tander also got involved, and it came to a head when contact with Slade sent Davison slewing off the road and over the grass, sliding helplessly back onto the course at the next corner and slamming into Whincup, leaving both cars with heavy damage. At the time, Triple Eight Holden driver Whincup had looked set to salvage a podium from a race in which he had been as low as 11th following an early brush with Tander. Van Gisbergen emerged safely at the head of it all, despite having been sideways on the grass at the fast first corner at one stage following a touch with Davison.
Lee Holdsworth (Stone Brothers), Rick Kelly (Kelly Holden) and Jonathon Webb (Tekno Holden) chased Slade and Tander home, while third-place qualifier Jason Bright had to settle for eighth in the Brad Jones Holden. Bright had lost a few places at the start, then fell outside the top 10 when he was nudged off the road by Triple Eight's Craig Lowndes, who was given a drive-through penalty for the incident and had to recover from 24th to 13th.