A costly two-minute stop-and-go penalty dropped the No. 74 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II out of the lead at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with three and a half hours remaining.
Kelvin van der Linde entered the pits from the lead of the race after passing the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos of Prince Jefri Ibrahim and Kevin Tse in quick succession.
The South African pitted and was ready to swap out for Nathanael Berthon, but the Audi factory drivers were halted by Melbourne Performance Centre team boss Troy Russell because a penalty had to be observed before any work could be carried out.
The sanction was a costly stop and hold for Bronze-rated driver Brad Schumacher exceeding his 80-minute maximum drive time for a single stint.
Combined with a driver change pit stop, the penalty punted the No. 74 Audi off the lead lap and handed the top spot to Luca Stolz in SunEnergy1 Racing’s Mercedes-AMG.
A safety car period looked set to hand the MPC-run Audi Sport Team Valvoline entry a reprieve after the Sheargold/RAM Mercedes-AMG went off at McPhillamy Park, however the wave-by procedure was canceled due to adverse track conditions.
The Grove Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R had also crashed at Skyline, with light rainfall leading to tricky conditions for the slick-shod cars at the top of Mount Panorama.
After a round of pit stops under the safety car, Stolz led from Daniel Juncadella who replaced Tse in the No. 91 Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes-AMG.
Craft-Bamboo driver Tse led the race at halfway before handing over to Maro Engel under the seventh safety car of the race, caused by Audi driver Tony Bates spinning at the Elbow with a right-rear puncture.
Engel then impressively built a lead of around 10 seconds over Shane van Gisbergen in the No. 888 Triple Eight Mercedes across the seventh and eighth hours.
Tse jumped back into the Craft-Bamboo Mercedes for the final time with four and a half hours to go, but a quicker pit stop from Triple Eight saw Ibrahim emerge in front.
The two Bronze-rated drivers battled at the start of the next stint, with Tse making a smart move on Ibrahim at the Chase to restore Craft-Bamboo’s advantage.
That turned out to be superficial, however, as van der Linde charged past the pair in his Audi for a lead that the brand factory driver would grow by more than a minute until the penalty. Van der Linde even lapped Ibrahim at the top of the mountain.
Behind the No. 74 Audi, Stolz was making ground in the SunEnergy1 machine and overtook the other two contending Mercedes-AMGs to put Kenny Habul’s team in prime position to move in front when van der Linde served his car’s stop and hold.
In addition to the penalty drama for its No. 74 car, Audi Sport Team Valvoline saw its No. 777 machine drop out of contention due to a right-rear puncture that caused the remnants of the old tire to wrap around the suspension, resulting in a seven-minute stop.