He may not have been the fastest man in qualifying, but reigning V8 Supercar champion Garth Tander made full use of a front row spot for the first-ever race on the streets of Hamilton to claim victory and build on his success at the non-championship round in Melbourne.
Although pole winner Steven Richards got the jump at the start, his advantage lasted only as far as turn five, where he drifted wide and allowed both Tander and the following Rick Kelly through into first and second. From there, Tander appeared largely untroubled, despite a first lap shunt causing early concerns and the temporary chicane giving some drivers tyre concerns.
Unable to do much about the leader, Richards kept up the pressure on Kelly to the chequered flag, but had to make do with third place, taking his 23rd career podium in the series.
"It's very frustrating really because the car was brilliant," the Castrol FPR driver admitted, "We were trying to pressure Rick into making a mistake, but were just never close enough in the right areas to pull a move on him. It just takes one little mistake and that's the end of your race, and we really need some good points after my start to the season so far. Tomorrow's another day, and who knows what can happen."
Kelly, meanwhile, almost picked up the lead as the field pitted under an early safety car, but settled into second for the remainder of the race, claiming he just didn't have the speed to try and get round Tander.
“We had a pretty good race, to move forward a position and finish in second is pretty good, but we are happy to sit behind Garth, as we definitely didn't have the pace to catch him and get past - it just wasn't an option," he confirmed, "We had a really good pit-stop, the guys did a fantastic job, particularly coming from Eastern Creek where we had a little bit of a problem. We are back on the front row and we got a good start today, so I think we are in with a good shot if I get a little bit more speed out of myself and the car."
Fourth place fell to James Courtney, the Stone Brothers' driver maintaining his grid position, but only after making a slow start that saw him slip to fifth on the opening lap.
The Jeld-Wen Ford stayed clear of the first-lap carnage and later re-passed Lee Holdsworth to reclaim fourth.
“I got a little too much wheel spin off the line," Courtney revealed, “Once we got past the safety car periods at the start, the car was very good, we had a good clean stop and got back out there in the same position we came in. We were probably quicker than the two cars ahead of me at the end, but I couldn't use the advantage because this track is quite hard to pass on. We just settled for the solid result to set us up to have a red hot got at it tomorrow.”
Holdsworth took fifth spot ahead of Team WOW's Cameron McConville, while rookie Fabian Coulthard produced both his and the Glenfords Racing team's best finish in seventh. Todd Kelly, Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom rounded out the top ten, but there was no fairytale result for another Kiwi, as Shane van Gisbergen paid the price for being outside the top ten at the time of Jamie Whincup's qualifying crash by being restricted to just 21st position at the finish.