Jack Le Brocq has held on by the skin of his teeth to clinch his maiden Supercars victory in Race 12 of the championship from Sydney Motorsport Park.
The 28-year-old edged ahead of pole-sitter Andre Heimgartner on Lap 13 courtesy of an earlier pitstop and would fend off a late assault by the Kelly Racing Mustang who only hours earlier had scored his inaugural pole position.
The last race of the weekend, several big name drivers were forced to run on used tyres allowing those that otherwise would be mired in the midfield to have a chance to snare victory.
An electric Todd Hazelwood was one of the largest beneficiaries and cut a 12-second lead between himself and Le Brocq to nil in a handful of laps before captalising on an ungraceful lunge by David Reynolds to steal third, narrowly coming up shy of Heimgartner at the conclusion of an enthralling final lap.
Jamie Whincup got the best start off the front row but Heimgartner fought back on the run into Turn 2 to exert himself into the lead as a lightning getaway by Reynolds had the Penrite Racing Commodore elevate himself into second and ahead of the Red Bull.
Whincup had started on the hard tyre and consequently conceded another position to Mark Winterbottom on lap two.
Further back, yesterday’s race winner Scott McLaughlin was falling like a stone on his worn soft tyres, relinquishing spots to Le Brocq, Hazelwood and Scott Pye in consecutive laps to sit eighth by the start of the third tour.
By lap six McLaughlin had been relegated outside the Top 10 while Heimgartner began to check out up front to head Reynolds by over 1.5-seconds.
Le Brocq scythed his way past Winterbottom for third on lap 8 just as the #17 Mustang was called into the pitlane to ditch his worn tyres for a cleaner set of softs to run to the chequered flag.
But the damage had been done and the championship leader would end up a disappointing 14th at the flag.
Heimgartner looked in total cruise control in the lead until he made his compulsory pitstop on lap 13 to don a set of relatively unused soft tyres for the final stint of the race.
However, the Kiwi emerged directly into the path of Le Brocq who had executed the undercut strategy. The Supercheap Auto Mustang then made his move for the effective race lead at Turn 3 on the same lap.
Shane Van Gisbergen would once again by the last driver to transit the lane for his mandatory pitstop. Having started a lowly 22nd after qualifying on the hard tyre, Van Gisbergen extended his opening stint until lap 18 where he re-emerged down in 21st.
Le Brocq and Heimgartner began trading similar lap times as the margin fluctuated between four- and seventh-tenths as both drivers charged on in pursuit of their maiden series victory.
However, further back Reynolds and a lively Hazelwood were eating time out of the front two hand over fist as a four-way duel for the lead surfaced in the final three laps.
Reynolds had latched onto the rear wing of Heimgartner with several laps in hand, though it would take until the final tour for the Penrite Racing pilot to pull off a daring lunge at Turn 8. But the stern defence of the Kiwi opened the door for Hazelwood to pounce and demote Reynolds off the podium.
The final margin between the quartet was recorded at 1.4sec with Hazelwood falling two-tenths shy of pipping Heimgartner for second at the line.
Pye pulled off a late move on his Team 18 teammate Winterbottom for fifth while the Irwin Tools Commodore’s sixth-place finish remains provisional as race officials investigate a pitlane incident which involved the 2015 series champion accelerating away from his box without the air jacks fully removed.
A late charge by van Gisbergen saw the #97 Commodore climb from 21st to 12th at the end of race as the title protagonist floundered in a race dictated by tyres.
Le Brocq now becomes the 72nd different winner in ATCC/Supercars history and the first race winner for Tickford in 2020.
The Supercars fraternity now begin preparations for a hasty dash to Queensland for a two-week managed-isolation period before moving onto Darwin for round four the championship at Hidden Valley Raceway on August 8-9.
|1||Jack Le Brocq||50:34.9487|
|12||Shane van Gisbergen||51:28.3888|
|19||Anton De Pasquale||51:46.5151|