Jamie Whincup has obliterated his competition to win the opening race of the 2020 Virgin Australian Supercars Championship.
The Red Bull HRT driver lead from lights out and never looked back to claim a dominant victory by an impressive margin of five seconds.
Pole-sitter Whincup got the jump off the line from a shaky David Reynolds to lead unrivalled as the field exited the Senna Chicane.
Nick Percat had his arms full early – quite literary – as the Brad Jones Racing Commodore developed a steering rack drama that had originally become apparent on the formation lap.
Jacobson, Goddard, Pither and Smith ensued upon a wild lap one battle for places 19th and beyond. The backmarkers nearly ending their race on more than one occasion as their dual intensified.
As the early lap kafuffles settled down, it was second-placed David Reynolds who piled on the pressure, shadowing race leader Whincup’s every move.
Will Davison was leading the sole charge for the blue oval. The 23Red Racing Mustang was comfortably running in third, sandwiched amongst a strong contingent of Commodores.
McLaughlin played the strategic game early, pitting from seventh on lap 8 for tyres and fuel in pursuit of the undercut.
The narrow walls of the Adelaide Street circuit weren’t playing nice for the season-opening race. Garry Jacobson and Bryce Fullwood clattering the concrete barriers to put themselves out of contention.
That drama was shortly followed when James Courtney hit the outside wall at turn 8. The subsequent damage was enough to end the #19 Commodore’s debut prematurely.
McLaughlin’s early pitstop was always going to pay dividends as he jumped to the race lead during the midway point while his rivals pitted around him.
Mostert then struggled to get by a fierce Davison after their initial pitstops. The duo trading paint on the run into turn one.
Cam Waters the showed up to the party rather uninvited, almost tipping former Tickford teammate Mostert into a spin as the fight for fifth expanded in intensity.
While Whincup built upon the foundations of a solid start, Red Bull HRT teammate Shane Van Gisbergen gradually made his way through the field, eventually, the #97 Commodore was within striking distance of challenging for a podium finish.
David Reynolds pitted for his second and final time on lap 41, being the first of the frontrunners to do so.
McLaughlin’s early pitstop ultimately yielded profit when he managed to stay ahead of Van Gisbergen and Reynolds despite a lengthier fuel stop. The defending champion playing his cards perfectly to find himself in second after everyone else had completed their final stop.
By virtue of his consistent pace all race, Jamie Whincup would maintain his sizable margin as the race leader after his final pitstop. It was Whincup who led from McLaughlin, Van Gisbergen, Reynolds and Davison with just under half race distance remaining.
Jack Smith narrowly avoided an embarrassing accident when he misjudged the entry to the pitlane entry, cutting across the kerbing to carry on for another lap.
Smith wouldn’t do any favours for Van Gisbergen towards the latter stages of the race. Despite ample opportunity, Smith failed to obey blue flags for a frustrated Van Gisbergen, earning himself a drive-through penalty and elongating the gap between third and second.
McLaughlin then became heavily hindered by a worn tyre shod Scott Pye. Pye opting to run a long middle stint but ultimately holding up the Mustang and allowing Van Gisbergen to come within a second of #17.
The gap between the two came close on certain occasions though it would eventually plateau as the race wore on.
But it was Whincup who was in an entirely different postcode at the chequered flag. The seven-time champion declaring his mark on the 2020 title fight in the most dominant way. Van Gisbergen trailing McLaughlin home to round out the podium.
Race One Results (Unconfirmed)
1. Jamie Whincup
2. Scott McLaughlin
3. Shane Van Gisbergen
4. David Reynolds
5. Will Davison
6. Cameron Waters
7. Chaz Mostert
8. Mark Winterbottom
9. Rick Kelly
10. Fabian Coulthard
11. Andre Heimgartner
12. Lee Holdsworth
13. Todd Hazelwood
14. Anton De Pasquale
15. Scott Pye
16. Jack Le Brocq
17. Macauley Jones
18. Zane Goddard
19. Chris Pither
20. Jack Smith
21. Bryce Fullwood
22. Nick Percat
23. James Courtney
24. Garry Jacobson