It wasn't just Courtney and Whincup fighting it out. There were epic battles through the whole field with cars belting each other at every turn as fight packs exchanged blow after blow for positions.
In what was one of the race of the year Tander got a cracking start and took the lead. A train of six fire breathing V8 Supercars then engaged in virtual warfare with Courtney smashing into the bumper of Tander and Whincup joining him in a move from sixth to third.
Such dominating speed did Whincup have that Lowndes was instructed by his team to let him past in the opening laps.
Whincup and Courtney had enormous speed while Tander was holding them both out. Courtney's aggressive assault on Tander allowed Whincup to sneak up from behind.
The attack ended in the pits when something happened during Tander's stop. Courtney sailed by after his pit stop and into clear air. Whincup pitted one lap later and came out simultaneously with Courtney flying down the front straight.
An astonishing sequence of events followed. Whincup made the first turning sweeper with Courtney flying into the same corner at speed. On the most dangerous part of the track Courtney went inside and out, was almost pushed into the wall and somehow ended up in front.
It was then that Courtney skipped away, his strategy good enough to halt Lowndes' late charge.
Courtney was on fire in the Armor All Top Ten Shootout. He produced an amazing lap and became the first man under 1m:22s despite a small brake lock. With Whincup making a mistake on his lap Courtney won his third straight front row start.
“It was absolutely magic,” Courtney screamed from his cockpit after the lap.
“It was a great, great moment this morning. It was probably one of our best moments with Jim Beam Racing. The car was great in the Shootout. It would do everything I wanted and to have it by that margin was exceptional.”
Whincup's small mistake left him in sixth on the grid and a tough battle on his hands to retain the Championship lead after the first race.
“It was tough in qualifying, we just didn't have a good car and my lap wasn't good enough. We didn't have the car pace today or the tyre life. We probably over-achieved today with what we had,” said Whincup.
Qualifying was intriguing with the initial fight for track position and 29 cars attempting to get at least one clear run on the soft Dunlops. Most achieved that in the first half of the session, positing early laps before regrouping for the final frantic minutes.