Team Vodafone driver Jamie Whincup has started off his Sucrogen Townsville 400 campaign in the best possible manner, with pole position and a dominant race victory in the opening leg of this weekend’s V8 Supercars Championship event in the north Queensland city.
After a poor start dropped him to third behind Garth Tander and Mark Winterbottom, Whincup powered past Winterbottom on the second lap, and took the lead from Tander on lap eight. From there on, it was simply a case of easing out enough of a gap that he didn’t come under pressure from the chasing drivers behind him. Tander and Winterbottom completed the podium places.
Lee Holdsworth had another promising race, holding off championship-leader James Courtney for fourth place to the chequered flag, although the race wasn’t without incident for the latter…
Having successfully passed Jason Bright on lap two, the former Jaguar test driver perhaps attempted to find some inspiration from the Red Bull F1 team when he tried a very ill-advised passing move into the Turn 2 hairpin, and succeeded in cannoning into none other than his team-mate, Steven Johnson.
Johnson spun and dropped to 21st place (he would finish the race in eleventh), while Courtney lost comparatively fewer (dropping to ninth) and somehow managed to avoid a penalty from the race stewards for his impetuosity. No doubt some stern words were exchanged in the Jim Beam Racing garage after the race…
Sixth and seventh places at the chequered flag were occupied by two drivers who, if asked about their prospects after qualifying, would have thought a top-ten result would be a miracle: Russell Ingall and Jason Richards. Starting 27th and 25th respectively, the duo powered their way up the order on the street circuit, gaining close to forty placed between them by the time the chequered flag fell!
Completing the top-ten were the ever-consistent Shane van Gisbergen, Steven Richards and Paul Dumbrell.
Many in the packed crowd were perhaps left to feel sorry for former champions Jason Bright and Craig Lowndes, whose weekends deteriorated after solid performances in qualifying.
For Bright, who started from the second row, he would retire after 44 laps. For Lowndes, his race prospects would come crashing to a halt on the opening lap, when he made contact with the concrete walls at the first corner. After losing several laps having his damaged suspension repaired, he would finish in last place.
Race 1 Final Classification:
[Original image via the Sydney Morning Herald]