Fabian Coulthard made the most of a clash between Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen to score victory in Race 17 at the Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint.
What was expected to be a tyre-strategy driven contest took a twist when the Safety Car was called just over halfway through the 31 laps.
Leader McLaughlin was immediately out-muscled by Van Gisbergen on the restart – the two cars making minor side-to-side contact as the Holden drew past.
McLaughlin then bumped Van Gisbergen into a spin at turn 2, dumping the Red Bull driver to the back of the field.
While the restart will be the subject of a post-race investigation, McLaughlin was soon delt a 15 second time penalty for the turn 2 clash.
Coulthard overtook McLaughlin on track soon after the incident and drove away thanks to six-lap fresher tyres.
“It all unfolded in front of me,” said Coulthard after taking his fourth win of the season. “It’s unlucky for Scotty, but we’ll take it.”
David Reynolds and Jamie Whincup had been following the top two at the restart but both took front-end damage that hurt them in the closing stages.
Chaz Mostert charged through from seventh to third, which became second once McLaughlin’s penalty moved him from second to 10th.
McLaughlin apologised to Van Gisbergen in pitlane immediately after the race, taking full responsibility.
“It was an absolute balls-up on my behalf and I’m sorry to him and his team. It’s not the way I want to do it… it’s not my style,” he said.
“(On the restart) I just got caught sleeping. There’s a lot for me to look at tonight, it wasn’t the best race on my behalf.”
Van Gisbergen took the flag 15th, losing more ground in the championship battle.
“I saw the green flag so I went beside him and didn’t pass him before the line,” he recounted of the race’s flashpoint.
“(When) I got in front of Scotty and he hit me once, I tried to correct it and he’s hit me off. But to his credit he was straight here apologising.
“The thing that frustrates me is we were up the back and he only gets 15 seconds for it, but bigger people than me make those decisions.”
Whincup dragged his Commodore to the final spot on the podium despite its damage, finishing ahead of Mark Winterbottom.
The result drags McLaughlin's championship lead over Whincup from 129 to 78 points.
Winterbottom had led the early stages from van Gisbergen and McLaughlin but struggled for tyre life and slid down the order.
McLaughlin had slipped from first to third with a slow start but pitted on lap 10 and used the undercut to jump back to the lead.
Van Gisbergen pitted just one lap later while Winterbottom, Whincup, Coulthard and Mostert waited until lap 16.
Scott Pye scored Mobil 1 HSV Racing’s first top five since Adelaide with fifth ahead of Michael Caruso, Craig Lowndes, Reynolds and Garth Tander.
Tim Slade ran sixth during the early stages but eventually finished 21st after an early right-front tyre failure.
A right-rear tyre failure on Todd Kelly’s Nissan left enough debris on track to trigger the Safety Car that turned the race on its head.