Scott McLaughlin easily held off a hard-charging Lee Holdsworth to clinch victory in the opening race of the Sydney SuperSprint under lights as tyre strategy determined who ruled the roost at the chequered flag.
A strong opening stint on the durable hard tyres, coupled by an early pitstop to gain track position, saw McLaughlin usurp several key rivals at the head of the field who opted to run on the softer alternative tyres.
Holdsworth held on to his second podium finish of the year despite donning a fresher set of softs on his final stint in a bid to challenge for the race victory.
The final step of the podium was claimed by Anton De Pasquale, another driver to benefit from the double-soft strategy.
Predictably, the soft tyres sported by Shane Van Gisbergen meant the Red Bull Commodore was able to round up pole-sitter McLaughlin by driving around the outside McLaughlin through turn One to lead the race, a position he would maintain until a late pit stop to switch to soft tires
Five cars of the 24-strong grid opted to start on the less durable, but faster compound of tyre, and all five ultimately made their way towards the front of the field with Waters piping McLaughlin at Turn 3 on the opening lap.
By lap four the leading five was Van Gisbergen, Waters, Holdsworth, De Pasquale and McLaughlin, the latter the leading driver on the Hard tyre.
The other soft tyre runner was Macauley Jones who had worked himself into seventh by lap 10 just as Mclaughlin was whistled into pitlane to swap his hard tyres for the softer compound.
The defending champion re-joined the race down in 18th where he quickly began to manoeuvre himself back towards the front of the pack.
De Pasquale was the first of the leaders to make his sole pitstop, donning another set of soft tyres as the Penrite Racing team threw caution to the wind in pursuit of a maiden victory for the 24-year-old.
However, a late surge on worn tyres saw Holdsworth briefly leapfrog himself to the provisional lead of the race after his pitstop on lap 15.
McLaughlin and De Pasquale quickly capitalised on the cold tyres of their rival to regain control of the race; the trio separated by less than second as the duelled for vital track position.
Van Gisbergen had run a strong opening stint, extending his tyre life until lap 20 where he swapped the softs for a fresh set of Hard tyres. However, a consequence of his lengthy stint meant the Kiwi lost out on track position and when he re-joined the race his deficit to McLaughlin was over ten-seconds.
The same lap had Holdsworth muscled his way past De Pasquale to snatch second and begin hunting down McLaughlin.
But try as he might, a collected McLaughlin comfortably cruised to a dominant victory 1.3sec ahead of Holdsworth.
Van Gisbergen would recover to finish fourth ahead of his Red Bull stablemate Jamie Whincup.
A lockup by Waters in the back stages of his final stint wounded the tyres on the Monster Energy Mustang and consequently saw him fall behind his teammate after the pitstop phase, eventually crossing the line down in sixth.
The Supercars paddock will have two further races tomorrow with qualifying to kick off proceedings from 12.45 pm.
|3||Anton De Pasquale||50:14.7733|
|4||Shane van Gisbergen||50:27.4525|
|16||Jack Le Brocq||51:08.8384|