Coca-Cola Racing by Erebus driver Will Brown has taken victory in the opening 250km leg of the NTI Townsville 500.
Brown won by a comfortable 3.3s margin from Red Bull Ampol Racing’s Broc Feeney, as Chaz Mostert on a superb three-stop strategy charged at the end into third place for Mobil 1 Optus Racing and the Ford Mustang.
A tangle between Brown and Shane van Gisbergen at Turn 2 on the opening lap allowed Monster Energy Racing’s Cam Waters to take the lead. There was further contact involving van Gisbergen later in the lap when he hit the rear of the Truck Assist Racing Camaro of Jack Le Brocq, dropping the Kiwi to 14th.
A spin for Mobil 1 NTI Racing’s Nick Percat caused by contact from Darwin race winner Mark Winterbottom led the pair to lose many positions. The DEWALT Racing Camaro was penalised, but Percat was delayed by steering rack damage.
The order read Waters, Feeney and Brown until the polesitter took second, while taking the lead just prior to the first pit stops.
Shell V-Power Racing’s Anton De Pasquale was the first to pit, but he became the race’s only non-counted runner later as an electrical problem proved elusive to fix.
Waters took on more fuel during his stop denoting a two-stop strategy, but when the first round of stops had been completed Mostert held a 19.5s advantage as his race game plan was revealed.
Coming in for his second stop on lap 42, Mostert fell back before charging through as drivers on two-stop strategies began to suffer on older tyres.
Penrite Racing’s David Reynolds entered the equation after starting second on the grid as he passed Feeney and closed on Brown, who was starting build a margin on those two-stop rivals ahead of his final service.
When Mostert made his third and final tour to the pits, he dropped back to 11th as van Gisbergen opted for a similar strategy, but wasn’t able to follow the Mobil 1 Optus Racing through.
Brown continued to lead from Feeney and Waters, with Andre Heimgartner making good ground after qualifying well back.
On lap 69 the race was neutralised as Todd Hazelwood was forced to stop when a fire in the rear of his Blanchard Racing Team started.
This aided Mostert as he went about picking his way through the field to finish third after threatening to catch Feeney for second, as van Gisbergen did finish fourth ahead of Waters.
Brown proved unstoppable after the safety car to take the victory from Feeney, Mostert, van Gisbergen, Waters, the Hino-supported Camaro of Scott Pye, Heimgartner in his R&J Batteries Chevrolet, Snowy River Racing’s James Courtney and Shell V-Power Racing driver Will Davison.
Winterbottom just outside the top 10 in 11th ahead of Jack Le Brocq as Reynolds dropped to 21st behind teammate Matt Payne in 15th and Nulon Racing encountered a disaster as its two drivers collided with Slade 18th from Golding in 20th.