Red Bull Holden Racing Team's pair of Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen enjoyed contrasting fortunes at the Australian Grand Prix, but both leave Melbourne licking their wounds.
Seven-times series champion Whincup conceded the category's dominant cars were probably around "fifth or sixth" in the pack due to the relentless pace of the new Ford entry.
Scott McLaughlin took his Mustang to three more race wins, consolidating his series lead, while fellow Ford driver Chaz Mostert took the overall meet win and the Larry Perkins Perpetual Trophy for his consistent drives.
Whincup hung tough, thanks in part to the staggering crash of McLaughlin and Cam Waters in the warm-up lap on Saturday, as Van Gisbergen spun out.
The 2016 title-winner lost a wheel en route to a DNF on Friday, struggled on Saturday and endured braking issues on Sunday.
In a most cringe-worthy moment, van Gisbergen locked up while trying to make space for Fabian Coulthard, bumping him off the track.
As the Kiwi's engineers struggled to keep car No.97 out of trouble, Whincup put his finger on the most pressing issue facing the team.
"We just don't have the performance of Chazzie and the Shell guys," he said.
"We maximised where we could.
"We got a bit lucky (on Saturday and for me to finish) second overall, that's by far better than we expected."
Whincup suggested the title race was in danger of becoming a no-contest, implying a possible McLaughlin win would be unmeritorious.
"We're probably fifth or sixth or so," he said.
"We'll do what we do ... make sure we improve that pace. That's going to be a win for everyone.
"The tighter the competition, it's going to mean whoever wins this thing it's going to feel like they deserve it."
Red Bull was hit with a $5,000 fine and a 30-point team championship penalty for losing van Gisberegen's wheel in a Saturday race.
The Kiwi was blunt on his dire weekend which sees him out of the championship's top ten.
"That was the end of a horror weekend on our side of the garage. I felt like a punching bag in that race," he said.
"I was supposed to then settle into the race to see if we could improve the car but everyone else had other ideas."