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A pair of Safety Cars has slowed the pace of the race further as it ticks through the fourth hour, Jack Perkins leading Andre Heimgartner who both stayed out while the leaders pitted.
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Scott McLaughlin’s race ended with the race’s first Safety Car period.
The No.17 Falcon’s engine finally cried enough with Premat at the wheel, rolling to a stop on the approach to the Cutting.
A subsequent Safety Car - brought out by a kangaroo - shuffled the order as some cars elected to pit while others stayed out.
That handed Jack Perkins the lead from Andre Heimgartner, with long-time leader Cameron Waters next from Steve Owen.
Owen’s car briefly led the race between Safety Cars, Chaz Mostert making a series of bold passes to climb from sixth to the lead in a handful of laps.
Waters struggled to match the searing pace set by co-driver Stanaway, allowing both Lowndes and Van Gisbergen to regain their lost laps. The latter vaulted back inside the top 10 by dint of a storming stint and the Safety Car to retrieve the stricken No.17.
Both Red Bull cars, however, continued to struggle with their windscreens fogging up. The team prepared another rag on a stick - seriously - to hand to the driver for their next stint on track.
He handed the race-leading car back to Waters just before the end of the third hour, 17 seconds ahead of nearest challenger David Reynolds.
The big news from the hour was the engine issue for No.17. Alex Premat lost power as the note from the Ford V8 soured. Shell V-Power Racing kept him out until his scheduled stop, but brought him back in a few laps later to try a further fix.
The car is down 10-15km/h through the speed trap on Conrod Straight, and has slipped outside the top 10.
Prodrive’s Super2 champion Garry Jacobson had the No.56 car up to third after an impressive stint, with Paul Dumbrell and Warren Luff rounding out the top five.
The continuing rain has led to an unexpected top 10 order, with Winterbottom next from Courtney, with Wood, Tander and Holdsworth rounding out the 10.
Stanaway’s storming double-stint saw him come close to lapping Triple Eight’s Lowndes and Campbell, the latter continuing to slip down escape roads as he struggled with braking issues.
Van Gisbergen hopped back into the No.97 just as the third hour ended, but he will have a big job ahead to drive back into contention.
Following in the tradition of web-footed Kiwi racers like Jim Richards and Shane van Gisbergen, Sandown 500-winner Richie Stanaway powered into the lead of the race in the second hour.
At some stages Stanaway was running two to three seconds per lap faster than anyone else on track. He moved rapidly up from sixth after taking over from Waters to be in the lead at the end of the hour - notwithstanding a trip down the escape road.
Youlden still holds second from Premat, who outmuscled Dumbrell in the battle of the title contender’s co-drivers.
The latter was struggling with the windscreen misting up in the No.88 - a problem he fixed with a mop stashed in the cockpit!
The rain intensified in the second hour with plenty of cars slipping off the road, but no Safety Cars have been required so far.
Early leader Owen has now slipped further down the field after serving its penalty, dropping down to 17th but still on the lead lap.
Along with Stanaway, several co-drivers have shone in the dismal conditions.
Super2 champion Garry Jacobsen sat fourth in Bright’s No.56 Falcon, while Richard Muscat and David Wall filled out the top six.
Veterans Winterbottom and Lowndes are down the field in P20 and 22, sandwiching Campbell in the No.97 after sliding further down the order by dint of a hit from reigning winner Jonathon Webb at Murray’s Corner.
Winterbottom made an electric start from the second row, only to find his path blocked off by front row men Reynolds and McLaughlin, the latter easing into the lead through Murray’s Corner.
His lead lasted all of two laps, the No.17 sliding down the escape road at Murray’s Corner and allowing a handful of cars past, allowing Mostert through into the lead.
The slick early conditions were some of the sketchiest encountered in the race.
“From Skyline to the Dipper, I have never driven so slow,” Tander explained. “It was like, road car slow!”
Mostert checked out at the front, building a lead of the best part of 15 seconds before making his first pit stop - but it would be a disaster for the No.55.
An electrical issue prompted them to shut it down and restart it, and co-driver Owen propped for around five seconds until he could find a gear. Worse still, the rear wheels spun during the stop, drawing a penalty.
Reynolds assumed the lead, pitting at the end of the hour to hand over to co-driver Youlden, handing the lead back to McLaughlin - the pole man yet to make his first pit stop.
The Van Gisbergen/Campbell entry had a rollercoaster opening hour. The No.97 was the fastest car in the early laps, charging up to third before the Kiwi slid down the escape road at Hell Corner.
He regathered to fourth before pitting to install Campbell, who was turned around by Caruso at the Cutting on his out-lap, dropping the car to outside the top 20. Campbell would continue to struggle to stop the car, sliding off on three occasions early in his stint.
Fan favourite Lowndes struggled at the tail of the field with a lack of confidence in his new brake pads type.