Taking the soft option almost paid off for Craig Lowndes but in the end he became a hard luck story as Ford's Will Davison claimed victory in the opening 200km V8 Supercars at Townsville yesterday.
A bold plan to be the only driver to start on the faster soft compound tyres initially paid big dividends for Lowndes, jumping from 12th on the starting grid to the lead by the ninth of 70 laps. At one stage the five-time Bathurst champion was 22 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
He held his nerve after finally switching tyres with 39 laps left, regaining the lead ahead of a pursuing pack led by Davison. However, Lowndes was finally overwhelmed by Davison by lap 58 as his hard tyres - and hopes of a podium finish - went up in smoke.
"We had to do something different. We opted for softs early and had a great start," Lowndes said. "But the hards went away faster than I thought."
Instead of taking a big chunk out of Holden teammate Jamie Whincup's series lead, Lowndes had to settle for fourth spot. He now trails Whincup by 135 points.
Davison claimed his second win of the season, finishing more than four seconds ahead of Ford team-mate Mark Winterbottom and Holden's Fabian Coulthard.
Overall, it was a frustrating day for Lowndes' Holden team. Whincup started outside the top 10 on a race grid for the first time this season after clocking only the 16th fastest time. Despite winning five of the last eight Townsville races, Whincup could not regain his Midas touch up north and finished seventh.
Another ruing his luck was Shane van Gisbergen. The pole sitter had Lowndes in his sights after switching to softs but copped a drive-through penalty for a pit lane infringement after 39 laps. Wily veteran Russell Ingall marked a record 226th race start - but failed to finish.
The second and final 200km race will be held today.
Meanwhile, former MotoGP champion Casey Stoner's frustrating run in the second-tier Dunlop Series continued when a punctured tyre ensured he finished last in an incident packed 14-lap race.