A quest to win three straight Bathurst 1000 titles has hit another snag for V8 Supercars series leader Mark Winterbottom’s Ford team at Mount Panorama.
At the halfway mark of the 161-lap Great Race on Sunday, six-time V8 series champ Jamie Whincup led after the third safety car emerged.
Holden teammate Craig Lowndes was second and Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen was third after lap 81.
But there was been no luck for Winterbottom’s Prodrive Racing team, winner of the last two Great Races.
Winterbottom’s Ford sat 20th in the 25-strong field after copping two black flag penalties after experiencing electrical problems that disrupted his brake lights.
It was another blow to Prodrive Racing, who were without their defending champion Chaz Mostert after his horror qualifying crash on Friday.
Mostert broke his wrist and leg in a crash that also injured three track-side officials.
The Ford team also lost their Super Black Racing duo of Andre Heimgartner and Ant Pedersen who hit the wall on Mountain Straight on lap 36.
Whincup’s Holden appeared impressive in the dry but everything looked set to dramatically change with showers forecast for Sunday afternoon.
The first safety car emerged when Renee Gracie – part of the all-female team – slid on fluid from David Wall’s Volvo and slammed into the wall at Forrest’s Elbow on just the 15th lap.
Somehow the wildcard entry’s team repaired the Ford and it returned to the track by lap 53.
The second came out when Pedersen hit the wall on Mountain Straight after a tangle with Holden’s Karl Reindler.
The third was sighted on lap 81 after Holden’s Tim Blanchard hit the wall at the top of the mountain, narrowly missing Winterbottom’s Ford.
Volvo’s Wall was ruled out after 15 laps with mechanical dramas but not before dumping fluid on the track that brought Gracie undone.
V8 Supercars confirmed that 201,416 people have packed Mount Panorama for this year’s Bathurst 1000 over four days – the second highest attendance in the event’s history.