CRAIG Lowndes' hopes of an eighth Bathurst 1000 victory took a serious hit inside the opening hour of Sunday's endurance classic when his #888 Camaro struck mechanical issues.
Lowndes' wildcard Triple Eight entry was forced to pull into the garage with a broken gear lever mount, which saw him slip back through the field 18 laps into the race.
Following the incident Lowndes was doing his best to stay upbeat about the situation.
"We've found ourselves a couple of laps down so we're hoping for a couple of safety cars - a couple of lucky dogs - so it's not over," he said.
"The car was looking really nice."
It was a clean start to this year's race as four-time Bathurst winner Jamie Whincup, starting in the #88 Triple Eight entry, got the jump on David Russell, who had the start in the #99 Erebus Motorsport Camaro that was put on pole by Brodie Kostecki.
James Golding jumped into third ahead of Cam Waters while defending Bathurst champion Garth Tander got a great start to leap up two places into fifth.
The car to watch in the early stages was the other Erebus car of Will Brown.
After striking trouble in qualifying and starting the race in 17th Brown surged through to pack to put himself into sixth by lap 13.
The drama finally arrived on lap 18 with separate incidents to Lowndes and Jonathon Webb.
Jonathon Webb ran long at the Chase, making light contact with the tyre wall, but managed to get his car back on track.
Zane Goddard took the #888 wildcard back onto the track three laps down.
The biggest moment of car-to-car contact in the first hour came from an incident on the Chase where Simona de Silvestro was spun out in a battle with Dean Fiore.
No action was taken by officials for the incident.
The first safety car of the day came out on lap 25 when Kevin Estre locked up on turn one and buried his Mustang in the Murray's Corner sand trap.
It was an unfortunate moment for the full-time driver of the car, Matt Payne, to witness after he had produced a great drive in his opening stint.
"We had a little bit of degradation at the start and then the car started to come on board towards the end and I was able to pick up a couple of people," Payne said after the crash.
"It looks like Kevin's locked the front and gone wide. There's not much margin for error there on that corner but it's a long race so hopefully we can get the laps back and be there towards the end."