Jim Beam Racing’s James Courtney has made it a hat-trick of race victories with another dominant drive to take victory in the opening race of the V8 Supercars round at Winton Raceway, on the back of taking both race victories at Ipswich a fortnight earlier.
Despite securing pole position, the former Jaguar test driver lost the lead to Garth Tander off the start line. A slow pit stop for the HRT driver was enough to see Courtney leapfrog the West Australian, but a very quick stop from Team Vodafone’s Jamie Whincup saw the defending champion emerge from his pit stop neck-and-neck with Courtney, who was bearing down along the pit straight.
The two raced side-by-side through the opening corners, but Courtney used his better tyre temperatures to sweep past Whincup around the outside, and was never headed on his way to victory.
Craig Lowndes drove a storming second half of the race to vault to second place by the flag fall, being among the last of the drivers to make his compulsory pit stop and emerging in 14th place. However, he used his fresher tyres to his advantage, almost picking off his rivals ahead at will and climbing to second place in just eleven laps.
Had he have had a few more laps to run, he might have even challenged Courtney for the lead, but one sense that the Dick Johnson backed racer had everything under control on his way to victory.
Whincup took an eventual third, and spent the last part of his race defending against Steven Johnson.
Shane van Gisbergen continued his promising season with a hard-fought climb to fifth place, mirroring Lowndes’ late-pit stop strategy to climb up 14 positions in just 20 laps.
Ford Performance Racing’s Mark Winterbottom and Steven Richards looked set for a potential fifth and sixth placed finish, respectively, until they tagged one another trying to fend off Jonathon Webb.
The HRT boys also tried their own self-destruction routine, with Garth Tander tagging Will Davison trying to go for a gap that simply wasn’t there.
Race 1 Final Classification:
[Original image via AUTOSPORT]