Jamie Whincup has eked out a small margin in his V8 Supercars championship lead by claiming his fourth win of the season in the first race of the Sucrogen Townsville 400.
The TeamVodafone driver narrowly held off a fast-closing Mark Winterbottom in what was a race of varying strategies and fuel management.
Starting from pole position, Winterbottom converted his top spot into an early lead, while behind him, it was a chaotic opening lap when Taz Douglas and Karl Reindler collided, while Dean Fiore joined the scene of the accident in sympathy.
With debris littering the circuit and all three drivers limping to the pits, the Safety Car as called while the mess was cleared up.
With some drivers starting on the harder Dunlop tyres while others stuck with the softer rubber for their opening stints, those on the soft tyres started to pick their way through the field.
Steve Owen and Garth Tander were two to do so, and quickly picked their way up the order once the racing resumed to assume a 1-2 by the end of just the thirteenth lap.
The first round of pit stops saw the TeamVodafone drivers of Whincup and Craig Lowndes switch to the softer rubber, which allowed them to get by Tander, who had now switched to the hard compound tyres.
Owen continued to remain out at the front behind Winterbottom, and it transpired that the Ford driver was using a mix of the soft and hard tyres at the same time – a loophole that series officials confirmed was perfectly legal.
The Safety Car made another appearance just before the midpoint of the race when Alexandre Prémat retired his GRM Holden on the circuit.
Owen was quickly passed by Whincup and Lowndes at the restart when he locked up, but the Safety Car was triggered a lap later when Jason Bright and Michael Caruso collided, which allowed the frontrunners a welcome chance to make their final pit stops.
Unfortunately this would be bad news for Lowndes and Winterbottom’s FPR team-mate Will Davison, who both had to queue in the pits behind their respective team-mates, which cost them a bundle of places.
Winterbottom and Whincup would continue their battle at the front of the field, but ‘Frosty’ grazed the wall two laps after the restart, an error which allowed Whincup to assume an effective lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
The remaining laps saw Whincup pull out a margin before Winterbottom started to come back to him in the closing laps, when the focus up and down the field shifted to one of fuel conservation.
Running on fumes, Whincup limped home in the final lap to win by just over a second, while Tander completed the podium ahead of the ever-consistent Fabian Coulthard.
Lowndes put on a charging display to climb up to fifth be the end of the race, while Will Davison’s fortunes were rather lacking, finishing twelfth.
2012 V8 Supercars Sucrogen Townsville 400 – Race 1 Result (72 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Jamie Whincup||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing||72||1:36:36.6067|
|2.||Mark Winterbottom||Orrcon Steel / Ford Performance Racing||72||+ 1.1504|
|3.||Garth Tander||TOLL / Holden Racing Team||72||+ 9.0783|
|4.||Fabian Coulthard||Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing||72||+ 13.9352|
|5.||Craig Lowndes||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing||72||+ 15.9831|
|6.||David Reynolds||The Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash||72||+ 24.0944|
|7.||Steve Owen||VIP Petfoods / Dick Johnson Racing||72||+ 25.3326|
|8.||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing||72||+ 26.2152|
|9.||Lee Holdsworth||Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||72||+ 27.5602|
|10.||James Courtney||TOLL / Holden Racing Team||72||+ 33.9709|
|11.||Russell Ingall||Supercheap Auto / Walkinshaw Racing||72||+ 34.7180|
|12.||Will Davison||Trading Post / Ford Performance Racing||72||+ 37.7530|
|13.||James Moffat||Team Norton / Dick Johnson Racing||72||+ 39.7171|
|14.||Michael Caruso||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||72||+ 39.8944|
|15.||Todd Kelly||Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing||72||+ 51.2934|
|16.||Michael Patrizi||Tekno Autosports||72||+ 58.9084|
|17.||Steven Johnson||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||72||+ 59.2955|
|18.||Tony D’Alberto||HIFLEX Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing||72||+ 1:09.5269|
|19.||Jonathon Webb||Tekno Autosports||71||+ 1 lap|
|20.||David Wall||Wilson Security / Brad Jones Racing||71||+ 1 lap|
|21.||Tim Slade||Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||71||+ 1 lap|
|22.||Shane van Gisbergen||SP Tools / Stone Brothers Racing||71||+ 1 lap|
|23.||Taz Douglas||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||69||+ 3 laps|
|24.||Dean Fiore||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||66||+ 6 laps|
|25.||Karl Reindler||Fair Dinkum Sheds / Kelly Racing||60||+ 12 laps|
|DNF.||Jason Bright||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||38||38 laps|
|DNF.||Alexandre Prémat||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||30||30 laps|
|DNF.||Jacques Villeneuve||Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing||18||18 laps|