In an extremely confusing set of circumstances, the 11-car field appeared to head off to the first corner at racing speed when the formation lap for Heat 1 of Round 3 would ordinarily have taken place.
Safety Car boards and yellow flags were put on display shortly after pole-sitter Joey Mawson spun due to contact with James Golding at the Turn 2/Turn 3 complex, which were elevated to red flags moments after Thomas Randle hit the fence on the back straight with the damage he incurred as drivers tried to avoid Mawson.
Replays showed that a five-second board was displayed on the start gantry, followed by the illumination and extinguishing of the red lights, and then the waving of a green flag.
Normally, to signal that drivers are to leave the grid for the formation lap, just the green flag would be shown.
Motorsport Australia has admitted that a mistake was made, and has taken action in a bid to prevent a repeat.
“An error was made with the starting procedure in S5000's Heat 1 at Sandown,” a spokesperson from the governing body told Speedcafe.com.
“As with all events, we had an extensive debrief with our officials involved at the event, spoke to the category management and fully reviewed the situation to make sure that error is not repeated in the future.”
The race eventually got underway from under Safety Car conditions at a wet Sandown, with the 10 cars which remained in qualifying order but for Mawson being at the back of the train.
While the reasoning at the time was that the #27 BRM entry had left the fast lane in the pits, where cars had been directed under red flag, to change from wet tyres to slicks, that decision has also been confirmed to have been a mistake.
Mawson nevertheless managed to leave Sandown in the lead of the VHT S5000 Australian Drivers' Championship, by a 40-point margin over BRM team-mate and former front man Randle.
The fourth and final round of the season, a short campaign given the impending switch to a ‘summer' calendar, will be held at Sydney Motorsport Park on the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships bill on April 30-May 2.