Nick Percat of Lucas Dumbrell Motorsports took victory in Race 3 of the Clipsal 500 following a tumultuous turn of events in the controversial, flooded event.
Percat took victory over second-placed Michal Caruso with Garth Tander rounding off the podium after post-race relegations of pole-sitter Fabian Couthard and Scott Pye from the Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske stable for not meeting the 140 liter fuel drop in the shortened race.
Percat took the checkered flag ahead of Fabian Couthard, who was relegated off the podium
The race started under ambiguous conditions, where the safety car lead the cars around the rainy track for a traditional warmup, and the set grid sat still for five minutes after Aaren Russell crashed the #4 Plus Fitness Racing Commodore on the warmup lap. During then, controversy ensued when several cars pitted after the warm-up lap for rain tires and a fuel drop despite arguments the race had technically not started due to the safety car still remaining on the racetrack.
During scouting laps following the delayed start, race stewards assured teams that the race had officially started; the safety car pitted on lap seven and the track went green. Action was rampant, with several offs and shunts; 15 point post-race penalties were later applied to Chaz Mostert for turning around Rick Kelly and Garth Tander for turning around Jamie Whincup. Controversial contact between Shane van Gisbergen and James Courtney was never addressed.
On lap 7 the race went green and Coulthard lead the field
The action eventually settled, and Craig Lowndes of Team Vortex avoided the carnage to take the lead after starting in 17th place on lap 22. Around then, the track began to dry and teams switched to the Dunlop hard tire to take advantage of the drying line around the Adelaide Parklands Circuit.
Heavy rain resumed on lap 28 and sent a hard-charging Chaz Mostert into the fence into turn 8, mirroring his blue from early 2015. A safety car was scrambled to clear the stricken Ford Falcon FGX, but the rain continued and not long after the restart, leader James Courtney put it in the turn 8 fence with rapidly deteriorating visibility on the racetrack on lap 36. Another yellow flag was called to neutralize the field, only with drivers struggling to keep up with the Lexus safety car; on lap 42 the safety car brought the cars into pitlane to be held as the race was suspended for twenty minutes following lightning.
With cars parked in pit lane, Scott McLaughlin took a moment to compose himself
The rain was so heavy, turn 11 was awash in flooding. Pit lane flooded, with computers in the pitstalls cutting to black and telecommunications temporary knocked out, not unlike the Sunday race in the 2014 Sydney 500.
Upon the lap 45 restart, the race was declared to be time certain, and the vast majority of the field pitted to resolve the mandatory 140 liter fuel drop. Percat, who had already undergone his fuel drop before the suspended race fought off Couthard and Pye for the checkered flag on lap 48, his maiden solo victory in V8 Supercars.
Couthard and Pye were relegated to 16th and 17th respectively after post-race penalties added sixty seconds to their time for not resolving the fuel drop. Other notables who suffered under the requisite fuel dump were Scott McLaughlin and Lowndes, who respectively lead the race going into the last lap before pitting.
Ultimately, V8 Supercars and CAMS race control were criticized for their handling of starting the race, restarts, and enforcing regulations regarding opening and closing the fuel window, especially forcing the majority of the field to pit with few laps remaining to comply with the mandatory fuel load despite a shortened race. Reportedly CAMS is looking to improve their handling of race start procedures.
Michael Caruso’s efforts pushed him to the lead of the championship
Outside of the podium, Cameron Waters, David Reynolds, Todd Kelly, Rick Kelly, Jason Bright, Mark Winterbottom, and Shane van Gisbergen rounded out the top ten.
Percat’s efforts have put him 10th in the championship, with Michael Caruso leading the championship ahead of Jamie Whincup. Caruso’s efforts including a 13th, 6th and 2nd placing in the weekend have made him the first Nissan driver to lead the championship since Mark Skaife lead with the Nissan Skyline GT-R in 1992 in the Australian Touring Car Championship days.