Supercars teams are facing a damage bill that could reach $250,000 after a six car pileup broke cars and shattered dreams.
In a stunning start to the race that Chaz Mostert survived to win, Hidden Valley Raceway was left strewn with twisted metal after six cars were taken out in a lap-one smash-up.
Prompting a race stopping red-flag and setting emergency workers into scurry, Anton de Pasquale was sent into a horrifying spin after being battered from behind while locked in a fight for first.
Out of control and facing the wrong way, the DJR star was battered by the oncoming traffic as his dream of winning the Darwin Triple crown took a battering.
And so did his car.
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De Pasquale’s flying Ford suffered both front and back-end damage following the carnage that was blamed on Scott Pye.
The incident has left DJR — and the other teams caught up in the turn one smash — in a race against the clock to return their car to the grid for race two on Sunday.
DJR were yet to assess the full extent of the damage but were hopeful of returning the mashed-up Mustang to the grid.
The lap one chaos set the tone for a frenetic race that saw a pit lane penalty overturned and tyre pressures investigated.
The drama continued when a pit-lane shocker floored Shane van Gisbergen before Mostert powered his way home to put Walkinshaw Andretti United back on the map.
“I was just hoping to get through turn one to be honest,” Mostert said.
“And I didn’t just get through, I ended up in P3. It was only then that I knew I was in the race. Shane was looking good but I don’t know what happened to him. I ended up having a good race car and full credit goes to the team.
“We may have had a bit of luck but you have to take them when you get them because I have been on the wrong end too many times.”
Mostert’s win was overshadowed by the crash that sparked a spare parts scramble.
Starting from second, Mark Winterbottom was left fuming after his race finished a few seconds after his start.
“This sport gives me the shit sometimes,” Winterbottom said.
“It’s cruel. It’s just shit. I don’t know what to say. We got ourselves into such a good position and then that happened. But that’s racing. We will just fight on.”
The controversy continued post race when Brodie Kostecki penalised for short cutting the circuit.
Nick Percat was also bracing himself for a penalty with officials launching an investigation into his tyre pressures.
Percat, who finished third behind Mostert and Cameron Waters, was adamant he should not be stripped of his podium.
“I felt like as a driver I did my bit,” Percat said.
“I took a straight car home. It would be hard to take if they took the result away. I didn’t do anything wrong from the driver’s seat for the entire race.
“I raced hard and fair so it would be gut wrenching, not just for myself but everyone in the team. It is hard enough as it is and hopefully I will be able to keep my trophy.”
Percat admitted to his error after the race and made a personal apology to De Pasquale.
Supercars history: AdP breaks 30-year record
Anton de Pasquale continued on from his South Australian qualifying blitz when he broke the Hidden Valley lap record to win the Top Ten Shoot-out.
With big names Will Davison and Dave Reynolds out of contention following qualifying shockers, the DJR driver went out early and put the field on notice with a record breaking time of 1.05.29.
Mark Winterbottom looked like rebreaking the record in what would have been a giant killing one lap blast, but made a minor mistake in the final sector to cost himself pole.
“I pushed and was on the limit,” Winterbottom said.
“But I would rather make a mistake giving it my all than come and now I left time on the track.”
Going out last, van Gisbgergen failed to match the pace of the flying Fords and finished third fastest.
De Pasquale made it three from three with another Scott McLaughlin-like shootout drive.
WHINCUP FLYING IN DARWIN SO WHY IS REPLACEMENT LAUGHING?
Jamie Whincup has revealed his replacement will get a first-year free hit with the retiring immortal to offer his heir a two-year deal.
On track to extend his legend this weekend after opening the Darwin Triple crown with a practice session win, Whincup declared the next Ampol Red Bull Racing would get a first deal double shot to prove himself worthy of wearing his crown.
Also a part-owner of his all-conquering race team, Whincup is hoping to unearth a future star with second series driver Brock Feeney in line to win the most prized seat in the sport.
“The reason why I’m stepping aside is to give young talent an opportunity,” Whincup said.
“Whether that’s in our team; even if it’s not an existing driver, then that spot will become available for an up-and-comer.
“You sort of need two years; I’d be pushing for any newcomer to try and do a two-year deal.
“The first year, you’re learning the other competitors, you’re learning the circuits, the car. There’s a lot to learn in the first year.”
Whincup’s record breaking full-time career is coming to an end with the greatest championship driver of all time to become an endurance only racer next year.
And while he has been overshadowed by his teammate Shane van Gisbergen this year, Whincup has firmed to extend his race winning record of 123 after going 0.1297sec quicker than Scott Pye to claim a Hidden Valley practice win.
Striking late in the session to steal the fastest time, Whincup is hoping to rack up his eighth win in Darwin.
“The session was good, the weather’s predictable,” Whincup said.
“It’s hot, it’s hot.
“Track stays consistent year on year, and because it’s a Super Soft round, we’ve got plenty of practice tyres to use in practice to try and make the car go quicker.”
Whincup suggested the Darwin Triple Crown could be won in the garage with car set up to prove critical on the tyre destroying surface of Hidden Valley Raceway.
“There’s a big challenge for engineers,” Whincup said.
“You have got to have qualifying pace because qualifying is obviously really important but then you need to make sure you get a bit of a gauge of how long the tyre is going to last.
“We can take a guess, we’ll use that information from the race run to fire into the Excel spreadsheet and see how long we think we can go in the race before we have got to change.”
The Darwin Triple Crown continues on Saturday with practice before the first of three races.
Series leader van Gisbergen was only 0.3 off Whincup’s Friday pace in an indication that he will be in the hunt yet another win.
Originally published as Watch: Six-car Supercars carnage trips up big guns