TeamVodafone’s triple V8 Supercar Champion Jamie Whincup is becoming increasingly happy with his form as he extended his Championship lead at the Sucrogen Townsville 400 today.
His first race victory in Townsville over arch rival Mark Winterbottom and HRT’s Garth Tander gave him a 61-point Championship lead as his team continues to fight the form Ford Performance Racing outfit.
“The FPR guys are throwing out good competition and it’s dog eat dog. I think that will go on for the rest of the year. We feel like we have picked up a bit and we will have to again,” Whincup said.
“We were happy today. We made our opportunities when they arose. I just hope the TV showed how much of a team race it was with the different strategies and the fuel race in the last stint.
“It doesn’t feel like just another one, this Townsville event is a massive event. Although there’s Championship points going on in the background this is all about winning the race, particularly tomorrow.”
Whincup made the decisive move on Winterbottom when the Orrcon Falcon touched the turn 10 exit wall on a Pedders safety car restart with 28 laps remaining.
“It was going smoothly but I just got caught out at turn ten with David Wall. I think he tried to do the right thing to let me through but he lifted and I had to swerve hard left to miss him. That was where the race ended, right at that point,” Winterbottom said.
Tander, Fabian Coulthard and Lowndes made three-stop strategies work to fill third through fifth, while David Reynolds, Steve Owen, Rick Kelly, Lee Holdsworth and James Courtney rounded out the top 10.
Tander said it was a welcome sign for HRT.
“To be third was a fair result after a fair bit of damage to the front end thanks to Steve Owen not indicating when he turned left at the start. I was driving an aerodynamic brick for the whole race,” Tander said.
“James was 10th and Russell (Ingall) 11th but the strategy didn’t go their way. Our cars have been reasonably good in race trim all year, it’s just we can’t get a handle in qualifying and start where we need to.
“That was the reasoning behind starting on softs and getting some track position early. We have got to get ourselves in track position early so we can play a part in the race. As it was we were.”
Sheer bad luck crippled Craig Lowndes. A safety car at the wrong time meant he had to ‘stack’ behind Jamie Whincup at the final pit stop, falling from third to 20th in one foul swoop. It did Lowndes’ Championship aspirations no good as he sat their helplessly watching Whincup take his stop.
“It’s down to being second in the queue, that’s the facts of the matter,” Team boss Roland Dane said.
“Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it goes against. Unfortunately there is always a window in almost every race where there are only a few laps where you are exposed. It happened at a critical time and we had to bring them both in.”
Despite the drama Lowndes still hung in for fifth in a great fightback. Lowndes stays in fourth in the Championship and in the hunt.
Earlier Winterbottom claimed Armor All Pole Position after being fastest in qualifying earlier in the day. He was the only man in the 1m12s bracket in the Shootout, pushing himself to his third pole of the season and the 24th of his V8 Supercar career.
He bumped his teammate Reynolds off the top spot, after The Bottle-O pilot had out-paced three-time champ Whincup.
The second 200km race follows a 20-minute qualifying session tomorrow.