It has been an exciting race so far with the #88 Triple Eight, #97 Triple Eight and #99 Erebus Motorsport Camaro.
Erebus is currently leading the way thanks to its decision not to pit during the last safety period.
Compared to previous years, much more competitive drivers and co-drivers entered the race, with drivers such as Cam Waters and James Golding among the leading groups.
They were unable to overcome the two front row co-drivers and Jamie Whincup made a smart move from second to take the lead into the first corner.
He was followed by Russell in the pole-winning Erebus, with both drivers settling into a rhythm at the front ahead of Waters and Golding.
By this point one rider was already in good shape and clutch problems forced Cam Hill to go into the garage for repairs at the end of the formation lap. The Matt Stone Racing crew at least managed to get the car out before a lap was completed.
Already during the first run in both directions there were significant changes, and the biggest winner was Will Brown. Starting 17th following a crash in qualifying, Brown made remarkable progress early on. By lap 7 he was already in the top eight before passing Tony D’Alberto who finished seventh on lap 10 and Garth Tander who finished sixth on lap 13.
Meanwhile, Lee Holdsworth regressed during this period, dropping from ninth to 15th as he struggled for pace.
On lap 18, problems arose with the Triple Eight wildcard and Craig Lowndes pitted to repair the gearshift mount, causing the car to lose several laps.
Waters stayed in fourth place until lap 19, when Richie Stanaway and Will Brown passed him. Four laps later he made his first race stop, handing over his Tickford Mustang to co-driver James Moffat.
The safety car made its first appearance of the day on lap 27 when Kevin Estre locked his left front wheel on the way to Hell Corner and became stuck in the sand on the exit.
The timing was good news for the third and fourth place cars as Golding had already pitted and handed over to Dylan O’Keeffe, with Stanaway doing the same to Shane van Gisbergen.
This helped them leapfrog the leaders when they stopped during the caution. O’Keeffe left the lead ahead of van Gisbergen, Broc Feeney lost position behind David Reynolds and Brodie Kostecki, now number 99, dropped back to sixth behind Moffat.
The race went green again on lap 30, and O’Keeffe sank on the restart when van Gisbergen drove under him into Turn 2. This allowed Reynolds and Feeney to also get through the race.
Shortly after the race restarted, Reynolds was assessed a drive-through penalty for passing Feeney during the safety car.
Reynolds tried to appeal, allowing Feeney to take third, but race control instructed him that he still had to make the crossing, which he did at the end of lap 33.
Six laps later, the race changed again when Warren Luff got under Dale Wood on the final turn, before Wood spun and hit the sand.
This resulted in the appearance of a second safety car and a wave of second arrests of the leading players.
The big losers were Feeney and Perkins, who had to double up behind their teammates and drop back to 13th behind the #9 and 14th behind the #88 (now with Whincup at the wheel).
At the front, Kostecki used the stops to jump into number 97 and take an effective lead in the race, which became the actual leader of the race a few laps later.
The next phase of the race was Kostecki vs. Stanaway at the front, with the difference being about one second.
Meanwhile, Whincup was able to pass Perkins as he worked his way back through the field and into the bottom of the top ten.
During the stint, there were moments when Stanaway put pressure on Kostecki, and the gap between the rivals decreased to four tenths at one point. However, Kostecki managed to weather the storm and then took the lead again by about 4 seconds.
That’s where things came to a head as both leaders came onto the track for a third lap at the end of lap 63, and Stanaway applied new brakes before passing Russell, who retook the No. 99 Camaro.
Stanaway then passed Russell by just over a second for the next eight laps before Moffat shot the No. 6 Mustang through the wall at Dipper.
Although Moffat managed to limp his broken car into the pits, race control still decided to use the third safety car of the day.
Triple Eight pitted both cars, forcing the #88 car to double-stack for a second time and dropping Whincup back to ninth, while Stanaway returned to fifth.
Meanwhile, Erebus left Russell leading the race ahead of the No. 11 DJR Ford, the No. 20 Team 18 Camaro and Jaylyn Robotham in the recovering No. 35 MSR car.
At the halfway point, Stanaway was back in third ahead of Robotham and was about two seconds behind Russell.
Whincup is sixth behind Garth Tander and out of sync, while Perkins has fallen well outside the top ten.
#Bathurst #KosteckiRussell #lead #distance