Reigning champion wins the first-ever V8 Supercar race on the new Hamilton street circuit.
Garth Tander has won the first race of the three-heat Hamilton 400, driving his Holden Racing Team Commodore to a measured victory over Rick Kelly’s HSV Commodore.
Ford Performance Racing’s Steven Richards finished third in the Castrol Falcon.
New Zealand-born Richards had started from pole and won the start to lead into the first corner.
He and the front bunch got through cleanly, but behind them there was a multi-car crash, in which Greg Murphy’s Tasman Motorsport Holden Commodore was spun by Mark Skaife’s HRT car.
In the ensuing mayhem, Russell Ingall’s Commodore was pushed into the wall and Steven Johnson’s Jim Beam Falcon was also spun up.
Ingall, Johnson and Jack Daniel’s Racing’s Shane Price (Commodore) were all out of the race by the end of lap one.
The decisive moment came when Richards locked a brake and ran wide at Turn 5 after a Safety Car period, and Tander and Kelly surged past.
Murphy lost more time when the pit crew dropped the car off the jack before a wheel change had been completed and had to jack the car back up.
His teammate Jason Richards, who had started 25th after breaking a shock absorber in the chicane during the first qualifying period, lost time having to serve a drive-through penalty.
In the opening laps, Kiwis Fabian Coulthard and Shane Van Gisbergen, both driving Falcons, ran eight and ninth.
After the pitstops, Skaife – who hadn’t pitted – led the race for several laps, from Tander, Kelly and Richards.
Tander resumed the lead when Skaife pitted, and the front-running order remained static with Kelly unable to catch Tander and Richards unable to catch Kelly.
James Courtney finished fourth after changing an engine in his Stone Brothers Racing Ford overnight after the block split.
Lee Holdsworth (Commodore) was fifth, ahead of Cameron McConville (Holden).
Fabian Coulthard had a relatively lonely race to seventh in the Glenfords Falcon and was first Kiwi to finish, one place ahead of Jack Daniel’s Racing’s Todd Kelly.
It was a fine finish to a strong showing by the Aucklander who had put his car into the top 20 shootout and qualified 10th.
Van Gisbergen had been closing in on Kelly with only a handful of laps left to run when his Stone Brothers Falcon slowed with a front tyre problem.
He pitted and it was changed and he finished 21st.
Kayne Scott brought the underdog Team Kiwi Racing Falcon home a creditable 17th.
Results of Heat One, 36 laps.
Garth Tander, Holden Commodore, 1.
Rick Kelly, Holden Commodore, 2.
Steven Richards, Ford Falcon, 3.
James Courtney, Ford Falcon, 4.
Lee Holdsworth, Holden Commodore, 5.
Cameron McConville, Holden Commodore, 6.
Fabian Coulthard, Ford Falcon, 7.
Todd Kelly, Holden Commodore, 8.
Will Davison, Ford Falcon, 9.
Mark Winterbottom, Ford Falcon, 10.
New Zealanders: Coulthard 7; Kayne Scott, Ford Falcon, 17; Jason Richards, Holden Commodore, 20; Shane Van Gisbergen, Ford Falcon, 22; Greg Murphy, Holden Commodore, 23.
Championship points: Jamie Whincup, 540; Rick Kelly, 520; Lee Holdsworth, 500; Mark Winterbottom, 434; Garth Tander, 426; Will Davison, 412; Craig Lowndes, 371; Todd Kelly, 368; Mark Skaife, 360; Greg Murphy, 354.