Toll HSV's rising star Rick Kelly has taken the lead in the V8 Supercar Championship Series in dramatic fashion after a disastrous first lap crash by former leader Craig Lowndes at the Ferodo Tasmania Challenge in Launceston.
Team Betta Electrical's Lowndes saw his Championship lead demolished when he smashed into the wall on the front straight after being hit from behind.
The Ford Performance Racing pair of Jason Bright and Mark Winterbottom scored their first one-two finish with Rick Kelly (Toll HSV Holden) passing his team-mate Garth Tander with a lap remaining to grab third.
Kelly now has a 50 point lead in the Championship and has the opportunity to grow that in tomorrow's two races with Lowndes, who finished 27th, forced to start near the back of the grid tomorrow.
"Craig is obviously having a bit of a terrible round but the same thing could happen to us at Bahrain or Phillip Island," Rick Kelly said.
"It's important we put our head down and get the most out of tomorrow's results and keep finishing in the top three and keep a calm, collected attitude. All you can do is your best on the track and hopefully you get the most points out of it that you can.
"We still have 10 or 12 other people that are very solid out there and difficult to beat. Our aim is to get as many points as we can from each race.
"The fact that Craig has a bit of work to do for us is better than it was leading in to this round. We will see how Craig copes with that. We have to keep on finishing in the top three."
It proved a dramatic first lap which resulted in a multi-car melee after Paul Dumbrell (Jack Daniel's Racing) and Lowndes' team-mate Jamie Whincup touched.
Lowndes and the luckless Supercheap Auto's Greg Murphy were caught up in the skirmish. It took seven laps under the caution period with Lowndes rejoining two laps down and effectively out of the race. Murphy and Whincup suffered serious damage and both cannot repair their cars in time for tomorrow's racing.
Despite the disasters, Lowndes said his team were not under pressure in the Championship.
"It was just one of those incidents that was unavoidable," Lowndes said. "Both Murph and I moved left to try and keep out of Jamie's path and I put a wheel out on the dirt and spun creating another dust cloud.
"I was very lucky no one gave me a good whack, once I stopped I found myself in a precarious position but thankfully the other drivers realised what had happened and backed off.
"It was disappointing to concede so many points but we are not out of it yet and with 854 points still up for grabs anything can happen."
With damage to the chassis Jamie Whincup's Bathurst winning car will now sit sidelined and the Triple Eight Race Engineering crew will prepare his old car for transportation to Bahrain on Wednesday.
"I am very disappointed," Whincup said.
"The car has some substantial structural damage and we won't be able to fix it in time for tomorrow's races. I pride myself on looking after any car that I race so I am shattered at the state of our Bathurst winning car.
"That was without a doubt the biggest hit of my career."
Poll sitter Mark Skaife was again on the wrong side of fortune when a loose wheel nut required him to pit for a second time.
After the pit stops Tander jumped clear followed by Bright, Winterbottom, Kelly, Richards and Jeld Wen Racing's James Courtney.
Richards and Courtney both made errors while Tander fell back through the field with brake problems late in the race to finish fourth ahead of Courtney, Steven Richards, Todd Kelly and Dumbrell.
Steven Richards (Jack Daniel's Holden) was the best of the New Zealanders in sixth place with Jason Richards (Tasman Motorsport Holden) 12th and Craig Baird, standing in for the injured Paul Radisich, 25th for Team Kiwi Racing.
There are two races tomorrow, both over 58 laps.
Leading preliminary results race one:
1. Jason Bright FPR Ford 44:32.88
2. Mark Winterbottom FPR Ford 44:35.56
3. Rick Kelly HSV Holden 44:36.74
4. Garth Tander HSV Holden 44:40.07
5. James Courtney Stone Brothers Ford 44:42.54
6. Steven Richards Perkins Racing Holden 44:44.25
7. Todd Kelly HRT Holden 44:44.48
8. Paul Dumbrell Perkins Racing Holden 44:54.99
9. Will Davison APVC Racing Ford 44:55.15
10 Dean Canto Rogers Motorsport Holden 44:57.61
Provisional series points:
Rick Kelly 2671
Craig Lowndes 2621
Mark Winterbottom 2386
Russell Ingall 2274
Garth Tander 2202
Jason Bright 2095
Steven Richards 2072
Todd Kelly 2014
Jamie Whincup 2000
Steven Johnson 1994