Jamie Whincup has powered away from the field to claim a strong victory in the opening race of the V8 Supercars meet at Pukekohe.
Whincup’s victory came after a decisive start from pole position, claiming a fourth win of the season ahead of New Zealander Shane Van Gisbergen and David Reynolds.
Further back in the field, Craig Lowndes shaved 12 points off series leader Mark Winterbottom’s championship lead by improving his grid position to finish fifth.
Lowndes finished fifth but was upgraded to fourth after the race after Scott Pye, who crossed the line fourth, was sent through the tyre chicane at turn five under intense pressure from the veteran.
Pye was asked to move aside for Lowndes but didn’t as the race finished under a yellow flag, leading to the post-race adjustment to the results.
Winterbottom finished seventh, meaning his championship lead is now 246 points.
The biggest incident of the 60km race came on the first lap, when a bungle sent Will Davison into the garage and crumpled Fabian Coulthard’s Commodore.
Coulthard was blindsighted when Davison was turned around – with Tim Slade right in the mix – in the frenetic opening turns, and slammed into Davison’s Mercedes to end his race.
After a safety car restart, leader Whincup’s awkward moment at the hairpin turn took Reynolds by surprise, allowing local favourite Shane Van Gisbergen to glide by.
But Whincup didn’t feel the heat, powering on to finish on top without being troubled.
The second 21-lap race at the Auckland 500 kicks off at 5pm local time (3pm AEDT), with Reynolds on pole and Lowndes joining him on the front row.