SVG surges to victory in Supercars opener

Shane van Gisbergen’s 2017 season got off to a perfect start after the reigning Supercars champion claimed victory in the opening race at the Clipsal 500.

The Red Bull Holden driver crossed the chequered flag 15 seconds clear of Shell V-Power Racing’s Fabian Coulthard who finished in second, while Mobil 1 HSV Racing’s James Courtney rounded out the podium.

Van Gisbergen started the race on pole position after finishing as the fastest qualifier during the Top Ten Shootout on Saturday afternoon, while fellow Kiwi Fabian Coulthard started alongside him on the front row - and a brilliant start from the Ford driver saw him overtake van Gisbergen on Turn 8 of the opening lap, while James Courtney quickly pushed past Chaz Mostert to jump into third and set his sights on the top two.

On Lap 20, there was some team turmoil, as Nick Percat made contact with team-mate Tim Slade - sending him into the tyre wall, and while Slade was able to drive away from the crash, a Safety Car was called to clear debris the track and forced the field to come back together.

However, the Safety Car’s arrival was bad news for Scott McLaughlin - who received a penalty under Safety Car for weaving behind the Safety Car, dropping him from 5th to 24th.

After the track was cleared - three drivers separated themselves from the field, as Coulthard lead the way from Courtney and van Gisbergen - and the three rivals were duking it out for their placement on the podium.

On the back of some tremendous strategy in the pits from Red Bull Holden, van Gisbergen took control of the race - as the Kiwi driver emerged from his second and final pit stop ahead of Coulthard and Courtney to provisionally re-take the lead and set his sights on the chequered flag.

After all the drivers had come in for the final stops and the finish line was in their sights, some more drama ensued - this time between old rivals Jamie Whincup and Mark Winterbottom.

The Bottle-O Ford of Winterbottom was spun around after some contact with Whincup, dropping Winterbottom eight places and placing the incident under investigation from race control. Ultimately, it was decided that no penalties would be handed down for the racing incident - but controversy still surrounded the incident, as it cost the Ford driver some valuable positions in the field.

Once the drama has passed - all eyes turned to van Gisbergen, who roared across the finish line to win his 20th career Supercars race, as Coulthard and Courtney stood alongside him on the podium.

Prodrive's Cam Waters had the best finish of his career, as he finished just shy of the podium by finishing in fourth, while Sengled Racing's Rick Kelly finished in fifth.

Amidst all of the controversy, Jamie Whincup finished in sixth position, followed by last year's winner Nick Percat and Craig Lowndes in seventh and eighth respectively.

Supercheap Auto Racing's Chaz Mostert crossed the line in ninth - while James Moffat rounded out the top ten in his first race as a Holden driver.