Shell Ford one-two in chaotic Hidden Valley opener
- By Stefan Bartholomaeus
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Fabian Coulthard extended his Virgin Australia Supercars Championship lead with victory in an action-packed opening race at Hidden Valley that saw pole-sitter Rick Kelly crash out.
Coulthard and team-mate Scott McLaughlin emerged from the chaotic race with a one-two ahead of Nick Percat, who scored his first podium since joining Brad Jones Racing.
“Scotty played pretty kind there and to get a one-two for the team is awesome,” said Coulthard, who took maiden wins for himself and the team at Hidden Valley.
While Coulthard extended his championship lead the big loser was Shane van Gisbergen, who failed to finish after a fraught race and dropped from 37 to 187 points adrift.
CLICK HERE for the full Race 11 result.
Kelly’s race had started in perfect fashion – beating fellow front-row starter McLaughlin off the line before holding out an ambitious David Reynolds at the first corner.
McLaughlin immediately snuck back under Reynolds, but the Shell Ford driver dropped to sixth when attempting an outside move of his own on Kelly at Turn 1 on lap two.
“That was an absolute brain fart on my behalf, so sorry to all the boys for that,” said McLaughlin post-race.
Coulthard and Percat were the first of the front-runners to pit on lap five, with Tim Slade in on lap six, McLaughlin on seven and Kelly and Jamie Whincup on nine of 42.
A slow stop for Kelly put him to the tail of that list, now headed by Coulthard, Percat, Slade, McLaughlin – who briefly stalled after his stop - Whincup and Kelly.
Of those running a long first stint, Van Gisbergen overtook Reynolds and was leading on lap 18 when he was struck down by a right-rear tyre failure and speared off at Turn 1.
Simultaneously, Kelly suffered a stuck throttle at Turn 11 – causing a Safety Car that triggered those who had not yet stopped into the lane.
Coulthard led away at the restart while McLaughlin took just over a lap to make his way around Slade and then Percat to secure a Shell V-Power one-two.
Slade was the big loser after the green flag flew, dropping from second to his eventual finishing position of 11th on the restart lap.
Whincup held off a determined Chaz Mostert to take fourth ahead of Cameron Waters, Craig Lowndes and Reynolds, who had dropped to 10th in his pitstop under the Safety Car.
Van Gisbergen’s crew took rear camber off his car in the Safety Car period that followed his tyre failure but would strike terminal trouble later on.
A squeeze at Turn 5 involving Tander and Jason Bright as they battled for 14th saw the Red Bull Holden out on the spot with damage.
The chaos added to a series of mid-pack incidents in the opening stages that included Mark Winterbottom and Dale Wood colliding at Turn 1, resulting in both spinning into the infield.
Todd Kelly was turned around at the final corner by James Courtney later in the lap, while Caruso’s Nissan also spun in the melee.
Macauley Jones narrowly avoided a major accident shortly afterwards when he was squeezed into the dirt by Courtney onto the main straight, sending the wildcard spinning.
Jones had another off a short time later and eventually finished 24th, five places behind fellow Dunlop Super2 Series regular Jack Le Brocq.