Jamie Whincup claimed his twelfth win of the 2012 V8 Supercars season

Defending V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup has moved one step closer towards claiming a fourth career championship after winning the opening race of this weekend’s Winton 300.

The TeamVodafone driver led home team-mate Craig Lowndes to claim a 1-2, with Lowndes staging an impressive charge through the field from fifteenth on the grid.

In a race that would ultimately be dictated by tyre strategy, Whincup outdragged polesitter and main championship rival Mark Winterbottom as the race got underway.

Both would start the race on Dunlop’s harder tyre compound, but that’s where the similarities in the race strategy would end.

The race was barely three corners old when the Safety Car was triggered after Jason Bright was tipped into a spin, ruining the potential that his third-placed starting position offered him. Michael Caruso came off worst in the melee, beaching his GRM Holden in the gravel and an early retirement.

Winterbottom – along with the lowly-starting Lowndes, Tim Slade and both Tekno Holdens of Jonathon Webb and Michael Patrizi – opted to take an aggressive strategy gamble and ditch their hard tyres at the end of the opening lap.

This gave them a free pit stop over the rest of the field, and having joined the back of the queue of cars who hadn’t stopped – with many of them on the slower hard tyres as well – they were now well-placed to carve their way up through the field. As strategic calls go, it was an excellent one, and gave all of them top-ten finishes at the end of the race.

The racing resumed and Whincup found himself pressured by two drivers who had opted for the soft tyres to begin with – James Moffat and Garth Tander – and it wasn’t long before he relinquished the lead and tried to peg the gap to the new leaders.

He managed to avoid losing any further places before he pitted for the soft tyres, and afterwards he quickly worked on whittling down the gap to the leader Moffat, and overhauling the youngster to claim the lead and his twelfth win of the season.

Further behind, Winterbottom’s race started to come undone when he lost track position to Lowndes after trying to avoid a concertina-style accident between Shane van Gisbergen, Will Davison and Tim Blanchard.

A grateful Lowndes nipped through, and after all the pit stops had been completed, he too found find his way past Moffat in the closing laps, with the Dick Johnson Racing driver losing further places to Winterbottom and Lee Holdsworth.

Winterbottom’s dramas wouldn’t end there, and despite race officials electing to shorten the race by one lap from its scheduled 47, his Ford began to cough on the final lap as its fuel tank started to run dry.

A thrilled Holdsworth managed to outdrag his fellow Ford runner on the start/finish straight to snatch the final podium position, while Winterbottom was left to be pushed back to pit lane by FPR team-mate David Reynolds on the slow-down lap.

2012 V8 Supercars Winton 300 – Race 1 Final Classification (46 laps):

Driver Entry / Team Result
1. Jamie Whincup Holden Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing 1:08:36.375
2. Craig Lowndes Holden Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing + 3.235
3. Lee Holdsworth Ford Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing + 13.600
4. Mark Winterbottom Ford Orrcon Steel / Ford Performance Racing + 13.637
5. James Moffat Ford Team Norton / Dick Johnson Racing + 19.055
6. Tim Slade Ford Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing + 20.757
7. Jonathon Webb Holden Tekno Autosports + 29.949
8. Garth Tander Holden TOLL / Holden Racing Team + 32.365
9. Michael Patrizi Holden Tekno Autosports + 33.063
10. Tony D’Alberto Ford HIFLEX Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing + 38.304
11. David Reynolds Ford The Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash + 44.626
12. Russell Ingall Holden Supercheap Auto / Walkinshaw Racing + 46.376
13. Rick Kelly Holden Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing + 46.889
14. Fabian Coulthard Holden Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing + 48.704
15. Steve Owen Ford VIP Petfoods / Dick Johnson Racing + 55.044
16. Steven Johnson Ford Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing + 58.804
17. David Wall Holden Wilson Security / Brad Jones Racing + 1:03.376
18. Alexandre Prémat Holden Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport + 1:04.623
19. Dean Fiore Ford Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing + 1:11.221
20. Jason Bright Holden Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing + 1:12.646
21. Karl Reindler Holden Fair Dinkum Sheds / Kelly Racing + 1:19.249
22. Tim Blanchard Holden Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing + 1:23.666
23. Taz Douglas Holden Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport 1 lap behind
24. James Courtney Holden TOLL / Holden Racing Team 3 laps behind
  Not Classified      
DNF. Greg Murphy Holden Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing 21 laps
DNF. Will Davison Ford Trading Post / Ford Performance Racing 11 laps
DNF. Shane van Gisbergen Ford SP Tools / Stone Brothers Racing 9 laps
DNF. Michael Caruso Holden Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport 0 laps

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