Shane van Gisbergen remains New Zealand’s best chance of Bathurst victory after Kevin Estre, the co-driver of Matt Payne, and Dale Wood, the co-driver for Andre Heimgartner, ran into early problems.
Payne and Heimgartner had started the race for their teams and were running in the top ten over the first stint before handing over to their co-drivers after 20 laps.
Estre was the first to run into trouble and brought out the race’s first Safety Car on Lap 26 when he locked up entering Turn 1, running at low speed into the wall and stranding in the sand.
With those who had yet to stop coming in, van Gisbergen inherited the lead, with Richie Stanaway having stopped for tyres, fuel, and a driver change laps prior.
Van Gisbergen had extended his lead over teammate Broc Feeney to nearly three seconds when the second caution was called when Wood and Scott Pye came together at the final turn, the latter attempting a move up the inside and the latter running wide and into the tyre wall.
He would also need assistance coming out of the sand and bringing out the Safety Car.
Van Gisbergen would return control to Stanaway under caution, with the Kiwi running currently running second, behind only Brodie Kostecki, on Lap 58.
Jamie Whincup, partnering Feeney, had controlled the earlier start, keeping pole-sitter David Russell (Kostecki) at bay for several laps before extending his lead to nearly four seconds by Lap 18.
Cam Waters, who qualified as the fastest Mustang, was pipped off the line by James Golding and ran fourth over the opening laps, remaining in contact with the Camaro but unable to make progress.
Amoung the biggest early movers were Will Brown and Nick Percat, with the former entering the top ten, having started 17th, by Lap 5 and moving to 8th on the following circuit.
In the Triple Eight Racing wildcard entry, Craig Lowndes had also made good early ground but slowed up on Lap 18 with a broken gear lever mount, losing several laps while in for repairs.
Simona de Silvestro had a spin on Lap 23 exiting The Chase, following contact from Dean Fiore, who attempted a move up the inside.
David Reynolds also lost significant time for a harsh drive-through penalty, given for passing Feeney while the race was under caution. The Red Bull entry was exiting the pit lane and passed the Safety Car control line just half a car length ahead of the Penrite Racing entry, which took the position.
Reynolds redressed on learning of the penalty but was still forced to serve his drive-through, dropping from second to the rear of the field.
Following Wood’s off, the second caution worked in favour of Estre, who regained a lap and moved into 24th.
Macauley Jones became the first retirement from the race following contact with Jack Smith at The Chase. Smith, partnering with Kiwi Jaxon Evans, who had impressed on his opening stint, spun as a result, and both cars sustained damage that required a lengthy stop for repairs.
After 53 laps, Kostecki leads Stanaway by just 1.3 seconds, with Anton de Pasquale running third, a further 9 seconds behind.