Jamie Whincup arguably extracted his finest 50 minutes of racing this season to seal the opening leg of the Coffee Club V8 Supercars Challenge on the streets of Surfers Paradise yesterday.
Under immense pressure from Holden Racing Team star Garth Tander, Whincup led from pole to win the 27-lap thriller by 0.26sec.
Mark Winterbottom, who moved from fourth to third shortly after the start, held his position in the Ford Performance Racing Falcon to finish close behind Tander.
While there were no overtaking moves between the top three, the race was roundly lauded as one of the best of the year with the top three drivers in the Championship putting on a brilliant exhibition of precision driving under massive pressure.
Whincup’s Triple Eight TeamVodafone Ford was not the fastest of the lead bunch but he made his Falcon as wide as a truck to keep a clearly quicker Tander in his mirrors.
The race for Whincup was won on two counts, the first being his ability to peel off some stunningly quick laps on a clear track when Tander pitted for his compulsory stop on lap 10, two laps after Winterbottom’s tyre stop.
The second was thanks to the slick pit work of his polished TeamVodafone crew.
Of the top three, Tander looked the most physically drained as he hung everything on the line to trade places with Whincup from the middle of the race when his HRT Commodore began to reel off stunning tours around the 4.5km track.
“Obviously we didn’t have the quickest car out there today but we got maximum points,” Whincup admitted.
“Both Mark (Winterbottom) and Garth (Tander) had much quicker cars than me today but we will make some tweaks overnight.
“We had a few other little issues inside the cabin as well which cost me a little bit of time but we’ll fix them – they are only small things and we’ll come out strong tomorrow.”
Tander staged a concerted push for the lead several laps after Whincup’s compulsory tyre stop on lap 11.
With Whincup released back on to the track he gained a clear advantage over Tander before the gap began shrinking.
“Jamie out-dragged me down to one (the first chicane) after the start and from then on it was a matter of following him and trying to enforce a mistake but Jamie drove a great race.”
Tander’s team extricated some slick recovery work on the set-up overnight after his qualifying run on Friday and he believes there is more to come for the twin 27-lap races on Sunday.
“We fixed a lot of stuff that we needed to fix and we have a good idea tomorrow of what we need to fix again to make the car better again.”
Tander’s Commodore was causing trouble under braking right to the apex on some corners in qualifying which was ironed out for the race.
But he maintains the Commodore needs a few more adjustments to make it ride the kerbs more kindly.
Winterbottom was sitting back behind the lead pair hoping for a mistake which failed to eventuate.
Following the opening heat, Whincup moves to 2416 points to slightly increase his lead in the series, with Winterbottom on 2369 while Tander is third on 2326.
Whincup’s team-mate Craig Lowndes is fourth on 1991 points after finishing sixth in race one at Surfers.
Jamie Whincup Falcon
Garth Tander Commodore
Mark Winterbottom Falcon
Todd Kelly Commodore
Russell Ingall Commodore
Craig Lowndes Falcon
Will Davison Falcon
Paul Dumbrell Commodore
James Courtney Falcon
Lee Holdsworth Commodore
Article: V8 Supercars
Picture: Ryan Schembri