After starting on the two front rows on the grid, DEWALT Racing’s Scott Pye and IRWIN Racing’s Mark Winterbottom have recovered to finish 21st and 22nd respectively after a challenging first race of the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown.

The day started incredibly strongly in Qualifying for Race 12, with both cars in the top four on the grid for the first time in the team’s history.

Winterbottom scored his best qualifying effort of the season thus far in second place and only a tenth of a second off pole position. It was his first front row start since his pole at Symmons Plains in 2019.

Pye was less than two tenths of a second behind Winterbottom on the second row, scoring his best result in a Supercars shootout in the process.

On approach to the grid to take the start of Race 12, the IRWIN Racing Commodore cut out with a suspected electrical issue. Winterbottom edged pole sitter Anton De Pasquale off the start before the car cut out again on the run to Turn 1.

Pye sat third as the leading cars closed the gap into Turn 1, resulting in unavoidable contact with De Pasquale, who Winterbottom also collected on his way through.

Pye pitted to replace a front splitter under safety car before heading back out to finish the race and earn some crucial championship points.

Team 18 will return to Hidden Valley tomorrow for Qualifying for Races 13 and 14 from 9:45am AEST/9:15am local time, with the races kicking off from 12:25pm AEST/11:55am local.

RESULTS & QUOTES

Mark Winterbottom, #18 IRWIN Racing Holden ZB Commodore 

Qualifying (Race12): 2nd, Race 12: 22nd

“The car was quick, we were on the front row,” said Mark Winterbottom.

“I rolled up to the line and lost power. I did a power cycle and lost power again after that. I finally got it going two seconds before the launch and won the start but lost power again.

“From a drivers perspective it is scary, you’re sitting on the front row with a black screen and knowing there’s 24 cars behind about to launch off the grid.

“I pulled to the side to get out of the way. I took off again and got to Turn 1 in about eighth, I lost power again and had no power steering so ended up hitting De Pasquale who was spun there.

“Just gutted for everyone, we’ve worked so hard to get this car so quick and you have to make the most of these opportunities when we’re available.

“This sport can be so rewarding and so cruel at the same time. We have quick cars and we’ll come back tomorrow and go again.”

SCHEDULE – DARWIN TRIPLE CROWN – JUNE 18-20

ALL TIMES ACST, UTC +9:30

FRIDAY
Practice 1 – 11:25am (40 minutes)
Practice 2 – 1:20pm (30 minutes)

SATURDAY
Qualifying (Race 12) – 11:35am (three-part)
Race 12 – 3:25pm (38 laps)

SUNDAY
Qualifying (Race 13) – 9:15am (10 minutes)
Qualifying (Race 14) – 9:30am (10 minutes)
Race 13 – 11:55am (38 laps)
Race 14 – 3:25pm (38 laps)