Defending V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup has kicked off his title defence in the style of the champion that he is, securing a thrilling last-lap victory to continue his domination of the Clipsal 500 Adelaide.
The TeamVodafone Holden driver took the lead on the final lap from Ford Performance Racing’s Will Davison, who was trying to run the 78-lap race on just two stops.
The 78-lap, 250-kilometre race around the concrete canyon that is the Adelaide street circuit is a daunting challenge for any V8 Supercar driver and team. Typically a three-stop race, the advent of a few safety car interruptions can tempt some outfits to gamble on a two-stop strategy.
For Whincup, the lead up to this weekend’s race had been terrible, with the sad news that his father had passed away only a week before. Confessing that he was underdone in his preparation and still racked with grief, Whincup was overly cautious in the Top-10 Qualifying Shootout, but was confident he could deliver come race day.
From the front row, pole-sitter and Whincup’s team-mate Craig Lowndes was beaten off the line by HRT’s Garth Tander, and Whincup quickly picked his way up to third position to be running behind Lowndes.
The two battled briefly and almost made contact, but mindful of the number of times that either TeamVodafone driver had lost out in pit stops when both cars tried to pit at once, Whincup opted to gamble on a three-stop strategy and peeled into the pits on the fifteenth lap.
The first of two safety cars came very early, when Tander’s team-mate James Courtney lost the rear of his Holden and hit the Turn 8 wall heavily, while Taz Douglas (Lucas Dumbrell Holden) and Jason Bright (Brad Jones Holden) both crashed out in sympathy. Bright was taken to hospital for precautionary checks after he complained of shoulder pains, and all three teams’ mechanics have major rebuilding work to get their damaged cars ready for tomorrow’s second race.
Not too much later, FPR debutant David Reynolds also crashed out at Turn 8, bringing out the second of the safety car periods.
Up at the front, Lowndes continued to harry Tander while the pair was chased by FPR team-mates Davison and Mark Winterbottom.
But then Lowndes suddenly slowed with a left-rear puncture, and he looked in major trouble as he hustled the stricken car back to the pits. Showing his trademark commitment, he had the car completely sideways on the approach to pit entry, in a thrilling example of precision driving. Reshod with a fresh tyre, he re-emerged in the action, but seemingly a long shot at a good result.
With all teams having made their final pit stops, the discussion was now going to be about which teams and drivers could eke out a good enough fuel consumption to get them to the finish without having to stop again.
With Whincup now back in front, he put the hammer down and drove a string of ten qualifying-style laps – breaking the lap record on multiple occasions – to build himself enough of a margin over Davison and Winterbottom (who were trying to go the distance without stopping again).
Whincup peeled into the pits with a dozen laps to go and rejoined in fifth, quickly passing Lee Hodsworth (Stone Brothers Ford).
Tander now took over the lead from Davison and faced the same dilemma: did he bash out some fast laps and go for a ‘splash-and-dash’ stop, or did he try to conserve his fuel and hope he wouldn’t get caught by the hard-charging Whincup?
In the end, Tander took to the pits, but the call came too late for him to charge back up and challenge for the win, but Whincup had that sole target in mind.
He passed the slowing Winterbottom with a handful of laps to go, and he needed to reel Davison in at over a second per lap to have a hope of catching and passing him.
With two laps to go, Davison’s fuel warning light went on. Instructed by his team to keep going, he managed to last until the back straight on the final lap before his Ford engine coughed on the last drops of fuel; Whincup sailed by to the cheers of the crowd, while a devastated Davison crawled over the finish line to claim a hard-fought, but bittersweet, second place.
Tander would claim a plucky third when Winterbottom pitted on the penultimate lap for a few dregs of petrol. while Lowndes came through it all to finish fourth, despite his mid-race dramas.
After the standard and level of excitement in today’s race, it’s no wonder why a teary Whincup described it as the best race of his career. It had everything: thrills and spills aplenty, and some brilliant wheel-to-wheel driving.
We could be in for a ripper of a V8 Supercars season.
2012 V8 Supercars Clipsal 500 Adelaide – Race 1 Final Standings (78 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Jamie Whincup||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing||78||1:56:34.291|
|2.||Will Davison||Trading Post / Ford Performance Racing||78||+ 5.525|
|3.||Garth Tander||TOLL / Holden Racing Team||78||+ 20.787|
|4.||Craig Lowndes||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing||78||+ 39.278|
|5.||Lee Holdsworth||Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||78||+ 39.748|
|6.||Fabian Coulthard||Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing||78||+ 40.821|
|7.||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing||78||+ 41.777|
|8.||Todd Kelly||Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing||78||+ 42.509|
|9.||Mark Winterbottom||Orrcon Steel / Ford Performance Racing||78||+ 44.576|
|10.||Steven Johnson||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||78||+ 45.724|
|11.||Shane van Gisbergen||SP Tools / Stone Brothers Racing||78||+ 47.041|
|12.||Tim Slade||Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||78||+ 47.711|
|13.||Russell Ingall||Supercheap Auto / Walkinshaw Racing||78||+ 52.509|
|14.||Michael Patrizi||Tekno Autosports||78||+ 58.069|
|15.||James Moffat||Team Norton / Dick Johnson Racing||78||+ 59.758|
|16.||Dean Fiore||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||78||+ 1:03.803|
|17.||Alexandre Prémat||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||78||+ 1:16.392|
|18.||David Wall||Wilson Security / Brad Jones Racing||77||+ 1 lap|
|19.||Steve Owen||VIP Petfoods / Dick Johnson Racing||77||+ 1 lap|
|20.||Karl Reindler||Fair Dinkum Sheds / Kelly Racing||77||+ 1 lap|
|21.||Tony D’Alberto||Tony D’Alberto Racing||77||+ 1 lap|
|22.||Michael Caruso||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||77||+ 1 lap|
|23.||Jonathon Webb||Tekno Autosports||76||+ 2 laps|
|24.||Greg Murphy||Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing||67||+ 11 laps|
|DNF.||David Reynolds||The Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash||44||Accident|
|DNF.||James Courtney||TOLL / Holden Racing Team||4||Accident|
|DNF.||Taz Douglas||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||4||Accident|
|DNF.||Jason Bright||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||4||Accident|
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