Defending V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup returns to winning ways at Symmons Plains as Red Bull team mate Craig Lowndes hits trouble.

The 84-lap main race immediately hit drama when pole-man Craig Lowndes - chasing a historic 100th V8 Supercars victory - collided with David Reynolds into the first corner.

Lowndes had exactly the start he didn't want after Reynolds' Falcon FG X got the jump on the three-time champion heading into turn one. Keen to make a swift response, Lowndes slammed into the rear left of the Ford - sending Reynolds into a spin and out of contention.

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The Red Bull driver then quickly received a drive-through penalty for his part in the altercation, which heavily compromised his afternoon.

Whincup, however was there to pick up the pieces as the Triple Eight Holden fronted a breakaway leading quartet, which was led by his 2014 nemesis Shane Van Gisbergen ahead of Garth Tander and Chaz Mostert giving chase in third and fourth.

The Tekno Autosports Commodore looked racy in the opening stages as he attempted to goad Whincup into an error during the first stint, the positions though remained unchanged.

It was the same story behind the leading pair as Mostert's Pepsi Max Ford loomed large in the mirrors of HRT's Tander in third - only two seconds separated the front four up until the first round of stops.

As the differing strategies began to shape the landscape of the afternoon, it was Van Gisbergen who was the first man to blink for the harder tyre with Whincup and Tander joining the Kiwi some five-laps later.

Curiously though, Mostert stayed out and ran much deeper into the race than his nearest rivals. It was a move that paid dividends and after finally making his stop on lap 31 the Pepsi Max Ford emerged in second, having jumped Van Gisbergen.

That then set up a straight duel to the flag between the two great V8 Supercars rivals Prodrive and Triple Eight. Mostert valiantly chipped away at Whincup's advantage but it wasn't enough to derail the six-time champion from achieving a 91st victory and retaking the the series lead.

Van Gisbergen held on for third ahead of HRT's Tander despite struggling with tyre wear at the end of the race.

Melbourne GP winner Mark Winterbottom consolidated a solid fifth place finish with the help of an alternative strategy call which saw him able to utilise the soft tyre during the second half of the race.

Winterbottom sacrificed the beginning of his afternoon on the harder Dunlop tyre but later reaped the rewards when the strategy crossed back into his favour.

Despite his drive- through penalty, Lowndes produced an inspired comeback through the field to claim sixth by race end.

The three-time champion had to adjust his strategy on the hop as he set a string of fastest laps,scything his way back through the pack in the process with little resistance - displaying what could, and, perhaps should have been.

In seventh, Volvo's Scott McLaughlin looks as though he may have weathered his torturous start to the year after the Polestar racer secured a second consecutive top-ten result.

McLaughlin was closely followed by fellow Kiwi's Andre Heimgartner and Fabian Coulthard, who finished eighth and ninth respectively.

Clipsal 500 champion James Courtney failed to make any serious inroads from his twelfth place starting slot and lost the championship lead in tenth position.