Ryan Wood wins dramatic Dunlop Series opener in Adelaide
Zak Best penalty hands Kai Allen Super2 points lead
Jobe Stewart clinches 2023 Super3 title for Image Racing
Ryan Wood has won a dramatic Dunlop Series opener at the VAILO Adelaide 500, with a Zak Best penalty handing Kai Allen the Super2 points lead.
Walkinshaw Andretti United rookie Wood claimed his fourth win of the season ahead of Eggleston Motorsport driver Cooper Murray.
However, it was a bigger story in the fight for the minors, with Allen claiming the points lead for the first time in 2023 after Best was handed a 15-second time penalty.
Best was penalised over a mid-race collision with erstwhile leader Nash Morris at Turn 5, with Morris sent into the barriers. Morris was classified eighth.
All told, the race saw a 63-point swing, with a 30-point lead for Best heading into Saturday turning into a 33-point advantage for Allen.
It will be an Allen vs Best showdown on Sunday, with Wood, Murray and Zach Bates falling out of title contention. Wood, Murray and Bates are now 180, 216 and 312 points behind Allen respectively.
It was a brighter story for Jobe Stewart, meanwhile, with the Image Racing driver clinching the Super3 crown after coming home fourth in class and 19th overall.
Cameron McLeod claimed Super3 honours in 13th overall, with Tickford Racing rookie Rylan Gray an impressive second on debut.
The Safety Car was deployed twice in the race, first for an off for Jordyn Sinni on the first lap at Turn 5, before a clash between Mason Kelly and Zane Morse on the 17th lap.
Morris pounced on a slow-starting Wood to take the lead into the Senna Chicane, with Bates jumping from sixth to third past Best and Allen.
Morris’ advantage lasted all of five laps following the first Safety Car restart, with a racy Wood making his way past through Turns 7 and 8.
At the end of the fifth lap, Murray made side-to-side contact with Bates at the final corner, with the #25 Commodore dropping from third to ninth.
Best fought past Allen on the seventh lap at Turn 5, with Morris holding up the title contenders as Murray set off after Wood. On lap 14, Allen made his move, first pouncing on Best at Turn 6 before rounding up Morris into Turn 9.
On the following lap, the defining moment of the race saw Best make contact with Morris at Turn 5. As Best raced on into fourth, Morris dropped to 10th behind Cameron Crick, Aaron Cameron, Jordan Boys, Aaron Seton and Lochie Dalton.
On lap 17, the Safety Car was called for a second time after an unsighted Morse clouted into Kelly, who slid into the barriers at Turn 7 and rebounded onto the track.
The Safety Car erased the 13-second margin between Murray and Wood, with Allen and Best brought back into close proximity after their early-race battle.
The race restarted with four minutes left on the clock, and as Wood held Murray at bay, Race Control notified Best of his penalty, which ultimately consigned the Victorian to 13th overall.
Wood's official margin of victory after 23 laps was 1.0640s over Murray, with Allen and Crick completing an Eggleston two-three-four result. Seton was fifth ahead of the returning Boys, who survived intra-team contact with Hanson earlier in the race at Turn 9.
Dalton, Morris, Cameron and Bates rounded out the top 10.
Jay Hanson was reclassified to 18th, meanwhile, after he was hit with a 15-second time penalty over contact with Aaron Love at Turn 13.
The Dunlop Series season will conclude with Race 2 at 1:20pm local time/1:50pm AEDT on Sunday.