Defending Adelaide 500 winner Shane van Gisbergen started his 2018 Supercars season in style, taking victory on the race debut of the ZB Commodore.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver, who won both races on the streets of Adelaide last year, took a commanding victory, his 25th in Supercars.
James Courtney was second for the revamped Walkinshaw Andretti United, while Shell V-Power Racing’s Scott McLaughlin completed the podium.
That trio were the afternoon’s key players, as the new season got underway.
Van Gisbergen could not capitalise on starting from pole, after a controversial end to the ARMOR ALL Top 10 Shootout, losing places to McLaughlin and Courtney off the line.
McLaughlin led until pitting at the end of lap nine, with Courtney short-filling three laps later to emerge ahead.
Courtney edged away from McLaughlin during this phase of the race, as the effective and then outright – by as much as four seconds – leader through to lap 40.
Van Gisbergen, meanwhile, stayed out until lap 24, and rejoined in the pack but having taken on more fuel.
He was let through by team-mate Whincup and passed Mark Winterbottom at Turn 5, before closing on McLaughlin and Courtney.
On laps 40, 42 and 43 respectively, leader Courtney, McLaughlin and van Gisbergen pitted for their second stops.
Needing a shorter fill based on his longer first stop, van Gisbergen emerged at the front and with a two-second margin.
Van Gisbergen maintained that lead over Courtney – as McLaughlin faded in third – through to the first of three Safety Car periods in quick succession from lap 52.
When the field finally got racing again, on lap 62, van Gisbergen stamped his authority on proceedings.
He edged away initially, then cruised to an advantage of nearly four seconds, before easing off and crossing the line 1.2224s clear.
“What an awesome day. The new Commodore is awesome, a one-two for the new car,” van Gisbergen said.
“It was a really good race, really tight with Scott and James and then at the end I was able to push.
“Hopefully tomorrow we can come and do it again.”
Second for Courtney is the Mobil 1 Boost Mobile Racing driver’s first podium since the 2017 season opener in Adelaide.
With the team having welcomed new international partners Andretti Autosport and United Autosports on January 1, new co-owner Michael Andretti was on site.
“It’s a great start to the campaign with Walkinshaw Andretti United and to have Michael [Andretti] and everyone here is fantastic,” he said.
“I’m pumped. The car worked really, really well all day, Shane just had a little bit on us at the end there.”
McLaughlin did not have the pace of the new ZB Commodores ahead, but did at least open his account for 2018 with a podium.
“We’ve got a bit to find overnight, but for us it’s a good start,” he said. “It’s all on for tomorrow.”
David Reynolds finished fourth for Erebus, having escaped penalty for a lap 34 clash with Jamie Whincup at Turn 9 that turned the seven-time champion around.
Reynolds kept Winterbottom at bay – rounding out five different teams in the top five – while Whincup had a relatively muted afternoon on his way to sixth.
Chaz Mostert finished seventh, progressing from 12th on the grid but relatively quiet, while Will Davison took eighth for the brand-new 23Red Racing.
Craig Lowndes and Lee Holdsworth crossed the line ninth and 10th.
Holdsworth, though, fell to 13th in the order with a time penalty, behind Scott Pye, Garth Tander and Nick Percat.
Debris ended a run of 52 laps without interruption to start the season and the subsequent restart was brief.
Cameron Waters was turned around amid a concertina at Turn 9 and Fabian Coulthard hit Richie Stanaway at the final corner, but all cars were able to continue.
Coulthard and Stanaway had already tangled at Turn 1 earlier in the stint, with Stanaway trying to make a move in that instance.
Stanaway was then involved in a three-rookie incident at Turn 5, ending up in the tyre barrier after being tagged by James Golding, with Todd Hazelwood also caught up.
That brought the Safety Car straight back out, and an attempt at a restart only got to Turn 8.
Tim Blanchard tried to pass Simona De Silvestro, who made contact with the back of the Brad Jones Racing Commodore on corner entry, firing it into the wall.
De Silvestro made it home in 18th, with Michael Caruso the lead Nissan in 15th, two spots ahead of new team-mate Andre Heimgartner.
Both Altimas were delayed in separate incidents at Turn 9; Caruso spun while behind Stanaway on lap 30 and Heimgartner was then delayed by the rotated Waters.
Rick Kelly’s 2018 started on a sour note after qualifying seventh, the Nissan driver tagging the outside wall at Turn 3 on the opening lap.
He pitted to have his Altima’s rear suspension repaired and ultimately rejoined the race 13 laps down.
“I didn’t get a great start, had Will [Davison] next to me and went side-by-side through 1 and 2 which was fine, but when we got to 3 there was a fair bit of debris on the road,” Kelly said.
Stanaway looked set to be the first rookie home in 18th despite his incidents but retired on the last lap.
That meant Anton De Pasquale and Jack Le Brocq were the first rookies across the line in 19th and 20th, both a lap down.