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Winterbottom wins as Waters Mustang goes up in flames

MARK Winterbottom is back.

In an upset result somewhat overshadowed by a frightening fire for Cam Waters, Winterbottom held off Broc Feeney to end a seven-year victory drought.

Never before had Team 18 won a race, nor had Winterbottom scored a podium in his four-plus seasons at the Mount Waverley squad prior to today.

The champion’s last win and podium came in 2016 (Pukekohe) and 2018 (Perth), respectively.

Back to the start, Feeney got the better getaway off the front row of the grid but Waters just hung on – and his defence helped Winterbottom barge his way past the #88 Camaro into second.

It was frantic back in the pack, with Declan Fraser forced to pit immediately and David Reynolds spearing off at the first corner on Lap 2.

Come the end of that lap, James Courtney spun coming onto the pit straight after contact with Andre Heimgartner.

But all of that was insignificant compared to what was to come as Waters crossed the start/finish line to begin Lap 5.

His Monster Energy Mustang burst into flames, in scenes appearing to be reminiscent of the Albert Park fires which engulfed the Ford Supercars of Nick Percat and James Courtney.

Waters was forced to hurriedly park up on the inside of the exit of Turn 1 and begin extinguishing the fire.

Cam Waters’ Mustang. Pic: Ross Gibb

It’s not yet clear how significant the damage is to the #6 entry and whether it will be repairable for tomorrow.

Even still, the drama was far from done.

With the Safety Car was called, the entire field peeled into the pits where mayhem unfolded.

It started with Bryce Fullwood clipping a tyre placed by Team 18 during Scott Pye’s pitstop, the tyre going flying down the lane and needing to be retrieved by Supercars motorsport operations manager Paul Martin.

A carpark then eventuated in the tight Hidden Valley pitlane, with Will Brown seemingly inadvertently baulked by Nick Percat as he double-stacked behind Walkinshaw Andretti United teammate Chaz Mostert.

The race finally restarted on Lap 11 before another Turn 1 fire triggered a second Safety Car period on Lap 16 – this time a grassfire supposedly caused by a Fraser spin.

At that point in time, the order ran Winterbottom, Feeney, Will Davison, Fullwood, Brodie Kostecki, Shane van Gisbergen, Tim Slade, Scott Pye, Anton De Pasquale and Matt Payne.

The Safety Car’s presence ruined the 1.3s gap Winterbottom had opened up over Feeney, but the 2015 champion again survived the Lap 19 restart.

From there, he expertly kept Feeney at bay as they blazed away from Davison, who hung on for Dick Johnson Racing’s first podium of 2023.

Championship leader Kostecki passed hometown hero Fullwood for fourth on Lap 31, while Brown and Mostert made up ground to finish seventh and eighth.

Kostecki now holds a 103-point lead over Brown, with Feeney jumping up to third overall.

Results: Race 1, 2023 Darwin Triple Crown

118Mark WinterbottomTeam 18Chevrolet35 laps
288Broc FeeneyTriple EightChevrolet+0.4561s
317Will DavisonDJRFord+3.3527s
499Brodie KosteckiErebusChevrolet+4.6420s
514Bryce FullwoodBJRChevrolet+7.5152s
697Shane van GisbergenTriple EightChevrolet+9.4362s
79Will BrownErebusChevrolet+9.9630s
825Chaz MostertWAUFord+10.1114s
911Anton De PasqualeDJRFord+11.1581s
1023Tim SladePremiAirChevrolet+13.9438s
1134Jack Le BrocqMSRChevrolet+15.5451s
1220Scott PyeTeam 18Chevrolet+16.4704s
1335Cameron HillMSRChevrolet+16.7379s
1431James GoldingPremiAirChevrolet+17.0134s
1596Macauley JonesBJRChevrolet+17.6103s
168Andre HeimgartnerBJRChevrolet+18.4016s
173Todd HazelwoodBRTFord+19.8496s
182Nick PercatWAUFord+21.0588s
1919Matthew PayneGroveFord+22.3188s
2026David ReynoldsGroveFord+22.5711s
2155Thomas RandleTickfordFord+23.9029s
22888Zane GoddardTriple EightChevrolet+24.0630s
235James CourtneyTickfordFord+27.5850s
244Jack SmithBJRChevrolet+5 laps
2556Declan FraserTickfordFordNTR
266Cam WatersTickfordFordNTR
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