Jamie Whincup is on the cusp of claiming his fifth V8 Supercars Championship title with victory in an action-packed opening race of the Sydney 500 finale at the Olympic Park street circuit.
Entering the season finale with a twenty-point lead over teammate Craig Lowndes, Whincup claimed pole position in qualifying and dominated proceedings for much of the race.
His one blot on a near-perfect weekend came with a very poor start from the front row. The Red Bull Racing Australia driver was beaten off the line by Mark Winterbottom and Shane van Gisbergen, but he left his braking super late at Turn 1 and dived for the inside of the left-hander.
Webb held off Whincup until the third lap, only for the points leader to claim the lead from Webb’s Tekno Holden and control the race thereafter.
Whincup’s main championship rivals – teammate Craig Lowndes and Ford driver Winterbottom – both opted to pit out of sequence in the hope of finding some clear air and a subsequent safety car.
The strategy worked, with both moving into third and fourth place after the rest of the field pitted during the first round of pit stops, which were triggered by a safety car called to help marshals recover Scott McLaughlin’s stranded GRM Holden.
Lowndes immediately overtook Winterbottom after the restart, but disaster struck seconds after when the pair made contact at the next corner, with ‘Frosty’ nudging Lowndes and tipping him into a backward slide into the tyre wall.
Despite damage to all three runners – most particularly Winterbottom’s Ford – they all kept going, but the trouble would not be over for the two championship protagonists.
Lowndes’ car was unable to take on a full complement of fuel in his second and final planned pit stop, which forced him to make a third stop later on, dropping him well down the points to fall 110 points adrift of teammate Whincup as they head into Sunday’s finale. Whincup simply needs to finish 21st or higher to claim the crown.
Winterbottom’s title chase was over with a little over a dozen laps to go. Having survived his contact with Lowndes and somehow avoided a call from the stewards to have his battered Ford’s flailing bodywork seen to, his race came undone when he was caught out by Tony D’Alberto clipping the wall ahead of him, and he too slid into the barriers for good.
Up at the front, Whincup and Webb run in a formation 1-2 for the rest of the race, while Webb’s teammate van Gisbergen claimed a somewhat controversial third place.
The Kiwi driver delivered a repeat of his Phillip Island antics with more contact with rival drivers. First, he biffed Tim Blanchard into the Turn 1 tyre barrier on Lap 17, and then on the penultimate lap he handed out a similar treatment to his compatriot Fabian Coulthard, snatching third place from the BJR Holden driver.
Van Gisbergen escaped a post-race time penalty for the stewards, but he was slapped over the wrist with a 25-point penalty for his troubles.
Jason Bright, Will Davison and Tony D’Alberto completed the top-six, with Davison the only Ford to finish in the top-ten.
Michael Caruso put in a storming drive from 24th on the grid to finish seventh in his Norton Nissan, with his Altima stablemates Ricky and Todd Kelly completing the top ten. The trio sandwiched Tim Slade, who was the best-placed of the Erebus Motorsport AMGs.
2013 V8 Supercars Sydney 500 – Race 1 Final Classification (74 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Result|
|1.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Racing AU / Triple 8 Engineering||2:02:28.225|
|2.||Jonathon Webb||Darrell Lea Racing / Tekno Autosports||+ 1.791|
|3.||Shane van Gisbergen||VIP Petfoods / Tekno Autosports||+ 3.774|
|4.||Jason Bright||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||+ 4.504|
|5.||Will Davison||Pepsi Max Crew / Ford Performance Racing||+ 5.785|
|6.||Tony D’Alberto||HIFLEX Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing||+ 9.649|
|7.||Michael Caruso||Norton 360 Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 10.920|
|8.||Tim Slade||Heavy Haulage Racing / Erebus Motorsport||+ 11.238|
|9.||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 11.723|
|10.||Todd Kelly||Jack Daniel’s Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 12.070|
|11.||David Reynolds||Bottle-O Racing / Ford Performance Racing||+ 12.882|
|12.||Alex Davison||Jeld-Wen Racing / Ford Performance Racing||+ 13.551|
|13.||Alexandre Prémat||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||+ 14.416|
|14.||Garth Tander||Holden Racing Team / TWR||+ 14.776|
|15.||Craig Lowndes||Red Bull Racing AU / Triple 8 Engineering||+ 15.819|
|16.||David Wall||Wilson Security Racing / Brad Jones Racing||+ 17.423|
|17.||Dean Fiore||Dodo Insurance / Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||+ 18.524|
|18.||Nick Percat||Holden Racing Team / TWR||+ 19.974|
|19.||Fabian Coulthard||Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing||+ 56.157|
|20.||James Moffat||Norton 360 Racing / Nissan Motorsport||+ 1 lap|
|21.||Chaz Mostert||Wilson Security Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||+ 4 laps|
|22.||Russell Ingall||SuperCheap Auto Racing / TWR||+ 14 laps|
|23.||Lee Holdsworth||IRWIN Racing / Erebus Motorsport||+ 17 laps|
|DNF.||Scott Pye||EKOL Racing / Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||62 laps|
|DNF.||Mark Winterbottom||Pepsi Max Crew / Ford Performance Racing||62 laps|
|DNF.||Maro Engel||SP Tools Racing / Erebus Motorsport||53 laps|
|DNF.||Tim Blanchard||Wilson Security Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||16 laps|
|DNF.||Scott McLaughlin||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||10 laps|