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||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing||1:08:36.375|
|2.||Craig Lowndes||Team Vodafone / Triple 8 Racing||+ 3.235|
|3.||Lee Holdsworth||Irwin Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||+ 13.600|
|4.||Mark Winterbottom||Orrcon Steel / Ford Performance Racing||+ 13.637|
|5.||James Moffat||Team Norton / Dick Johnson Racing||+ 19.055|
|6.||Tim Slade||Lucky 7 Racing / Stone Brothers Racing||+ 20.757|
|7.||Jonathon Webb||Tekno Autosports||+ 29.949|
|8.||Garth Tander||TOLL / Holden Racing Team||+ 32.365|
|9.||Michael Patrizi||Tekno Autosports||+ 33.063|
|10.||Tony D’Alberto||HIFLEX Racing / Tony D’Alberto Racing||+ 38.304|
|11.||David Reynolds||The Bottle-O Racing Team / Rod Nash||+ 44.626|
|12.||Russell Ingall||Supercheap Auto / Walkinshaw Racing||+ 46.376|
|13.||Rick Kelly||Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing||+ 46.889|
|14.||Fabian Coulthard||Lockwood Racing / Brad Jones Racing||+ 48.704|
|15.||Steve Owen||VIP Petfoods / Dick Johnson Racing||+ 55.044|
|16.||Steven Johnson||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||+ 58.804|
|17.||David Wall||Wilson Security / Brad Jones Racing||+ 1:03.376|
|18.||Alexandre Prémat||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||+ 1:04.623|
|19.||Dean Fiore||Jim Beam Racing / Dick Johnson Racing||+ 1:11.221|
|20.||Jason Bright||Team BOC / Brad Jones Racing||+ 1:12.646|
|21.||Karl Reindler||Fair Dinkum Sheds / Kelly Racing||+ 1:19.249|
|22.||Tim Blanchard||Jack Daniel’s / Kelly Racing||+ 1:23.666|
|23.||Taz Douglas||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||1 lap behind|
|24.||James Courtney||TOLL / Holden Racing Team||3 laps behind|
|DNF.||Greg Murphy||Pepsi Max Crew / Kelly Racing||21 laps|
|DNF.||Will Davison||Trading Post / Ford Performance Racing||11 laps|
|DNF.||Shane van Gisbergen||SP Tools / Stone Brothers Racing||9 laps|
|DNF.||Michael Caruso||Fujitsu Racing / Garry Rogers Motorsport||0 laps|
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