Only one driver refused to get caught up in the snakes-and-ladders game that turned the first of three races on the streets of Townsville into the most entertaining slug-fest sprint of 2020.
As Jamie Whincup motored serenely to his 11th career victory at the Reid Park street circuit, and a 40-point championship swing, there was action everywhere from Turn 2 to the final run to the flag to entertain the first decent Supercars crowd since Adelaide in March.
His only mistake was stopping on the circuit, instead of pulling into victory lane, but he had a solid excuse after his radio failed and he had no communication with his Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
In stark contrast, his team-mate Shane van Gisbergen was eight laps behind after major repairs following the first-lap smash-up that involved nearly half the field and led to the retirement of both Mustangs from Kelly Racing, as well as Todd Hazelwood’s Commodore.
The final order saw Cam Waters grab the runner-up spot just four laps from the finish with his Monster Mustang, pulling off a pass on Chaz Mostert without any of the crashing or banging from their days together at Tickford Racing.
“It was a good old battle with Cam, but I had nothing for him,” says Mostert as he steps out of the third-placed WAU Commodore.
“I had a lot of fun chasing Chazzy. We just stuck to our strategy, came through the pack, and had some fun,” says Waters.
And Scott McLaughlin? Seventh.
That seems like a miserable result for the championship leader in the Shell V-Power Mustang, but it was a fantastic comeback after an uncharacteristic mistake in qualifying buried him in 16th on the grid.
McLaughlin was only aiming for the Top 10 but was already into eighth after mostly avoiding the first-lap crash-fest, apart from a big biff in the tail, and advanced strongly with a tactical drive. His only concession to his attacking effort was when he let his team-mate Fabian Coulthard through for a run that eventually took him to fourth.
“I made a mistake and I’m pissed off with myself. We’ll see what we can do in the race,” says McLaughlin after qualifying.
“I’d love to get to the back of the 10, and maybe a few more and knock them off. We’ll have a crack and see what happens. Watch this space.”
It was worth the watch, but there was plenty of other action.
James Courtney also went forward for most of the race, advancing all the way to sixth, but David Reynolds was only fifth after a showing renewed pace with the return of his engineer Al McVean netted him a front-row starting spot. He was comprehensively out-dragging from the grid and never showed enough pace to fight for the podium.
Race 19 – 39 laps
|Anton de Pasquale