Prodrive Racing Australia's Chaz Mostert claimed his second podium since his return to racing with third in an at times wild opening race in Darwin.
Mostert qualified fourth and held position early before cycling through to second after making his compulsory pit stop. Despite not having the ultimate tyre life and dropping to third by race end he was pleased with the result.
It was a tougher day for reigning champion Mark Winterbottom who was punted out of fourth after the race's only safety car period. He rejoined 11th and would go on to finish ninth but was unhappy with his overall pace.
Stable mate Cameron Waters qualified outside the top 10 but a great start gained him two places though contact also ended his chances.
A dive at the hairpin from Fabian Coulthard and the resultant contact damaged the left-front of his car and forced him in for lengthy repairs. While he rejoined to claim points his tough day was contrasted with a strong run for Super Black Racing's Chris Pither who moved from 19th to 14th by the chequered flag.
Pither avoided all the trouble which took several title contenders out of the hunt and raced cleanly to a five position gain.
Mostert’s result moves him to 11th in the standings; a mere 11 points off moving into the top 10 for the first time this season. Winterbottom has lost his series lead and while now second, he sits only 18 points away from top spot.
Mark Winterbottom - #1 The Bottle-O PRA Ford:
Race 12: 9th
"We were not quick enough, we simply struggled with pace. Getting hustled off the track at turn one didn’t help and that put us back in the pack and we couldn’t do much as we had no pace. We’ll tune things up tonight and see if we can find some of that speed we missed today. That’s the focus for tomorrow so hopefully we can get back up the front and be in the hunt.”
Cameron Waters - #6 Monster Energy PRA Ford:
Race 12: 24th
"I had a pretty good start. The restart was okay too but I got bombed by (Fabian) Coulthard at the hairpin. We ran out of road on the exit and he made contact with my left-front wheel and broke the upright. I had to come in the pits, the team did a good job to fix it and after that I actually had pretty good pace. As good as the other cars in the team but as a group we are not quick enough. We’ll try and bounce back tomorrow a bit stronger.”
Chaz Mostert - #55 Supercheap Auto PRA Ford:
Race 12: 3rd
"I had a good start and tried to fall back in at turn one and not make any contact. While (Shane) van Gisbergen’s penalty helped us get on the podium, our strategy worked out well and we came out second after our pit stop. The car fell away with the tyres a little bit near the end which just hurt us a bit too much. We should be stronger tomorrow with shorter stints which will favour us. We’ve got plenty of homework to do tonight to find what we need to but I am happy with today. I’ve made a few errors this year so to get through and finish on the podium I am ecstatic. It feels a bit like a win so hopefully we can turn this momentum into some actual wins and claw our way back up the championship.”
Chris Pither - #111 Super Black PRA Ford:
Race 12: 14th
"I am pretty happy with the race. I didn’t do myself any favours qualifying where I did. I struggled this morning to make the car comfortable to drive and get a quick lap out of it. Overall to move forward five spots I am happy with that. We’ve got something we can work with tomorrow and hopefully we qualify better than we did today.”
Tim Edwards – Team Principal:
"It was great to see Chaz back on the podium after a battling drive in tough conditions. Simply surviving the opening lap and the restart was no easy feat and he did that and deserves to be back spraying the champagne today. It was a tougher day for Mark and Cam who had separate incidents but weren’t happy with their pace so we’ve got work to do there. Chris battled through and did a good job but it is clear we’re short of where we need to be so we’ve got a big night ahead.”
DARWIN TRIPLE CROWN – SATURDAY RESULTS
1) Michael Caruso – Kelly Racing
2) Jamie Whincup – Triple Eight
3) Chaz Mostert – Prodrive Racing
4) Will Davison - Tekno
5) Scott Pye – DJR Team Penske
9) Mark Winterbottom – Prodrive Racing
14) Chris Pither – Super Black Racing
24) Cameron Waters – Prodrive Racing
DRIVER CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1) Jamie Whincup – Triple Eight: 1195
2) Mark Winterbottom – Prodrive Racing: 1167
3) Scott McLaughlin – Garry Rogers Motorsport: 1134
4) Craig Lowndes – Triple Eight: 1054
5) Shane van Gisbergen – Triple Eight: 1032
11) Chaz Mostert – Prodrive Racing: 833
19) Cameron Waters – Prodrive Racing: 646
23) Chris Pither– Super Black Racing: 478
1) Triple Eight: 2249
2) Prodrive Racing (Australia): 1828
3) Garry Rogers Motorsport: 1680