Mark Winterbottom has extended his lead in the V8 Supercars Championship standings with back-to-back victories to close out the Castrol Edge Townsville 400.

In a near-faultless weekend for the Prodrive Racing squad, Winterbottom finished the weekend’s second 200-kilometre race at the Red Park street circuit just over three seconds clear of HRT’s James Courtney.

Courtney had himself put in a late charge in the final laps, emerging victorious in a scrap with David Reynolds, who finished runner-up to Winterbottom in the weekend’s opening race on Saturday afternoon.

Despite qualifying a less-than-impressive fifth, Winterbottom was quick out of the gate on a low fuel load and had worked his way into third place before pitting at the end of Lap 10.

The opening phase of the race was frenetic, with pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin only able to hold onto his lead for a few laps before the Prodrive Fords of Chaz Mostert, David Reynolds and Winterbottom went by in quick succession.

Once the pit stops had shaken themselves out, Winterbottom had actually fallen back to fifth, but the team’s strategy call would work perfectly after the second round of pit stops.

Emerging just behind Reynolds, Winterbottom turned up the heat and it was enough to cause Reynolds – running tyres which were seven laps older – to have a momentary wobble at Turn 2 on Lap 52; that was all the invitation Winterbottom needed to slip up the inside and claim the lead.

Prodirve looked set to claim a 1-2-3 , before Mostert and Reynolds were picked off by a hard-charging Courtney in the final laps.

Courtney’s outstanding result came by dint of an inspired pit call from the Holden Racing Team, who opted to switch the former champion to a three-stop strategy during a mid-race Safety Car. Four stints on lighter fuel helped him slingshot his way up the order from 16th on the grid, although he came close to tangling with teammate Garth Tander for the third time this season when the pair was battling for position.

Courtney and Tander would eventually sandwich Reynolds on the final results, while Jamie Whincup finished fifth as Mostert once again fell down the order in the closing laps after suffering more tyre woes.

Seventh through tenth placings were filled by Lee Holdsworth, Andre Heimgartner, Craig Lowndes and Todd Kelly.

The race’s sole Safety Car was called shortly after the first pit stops, when the luckless McLaughlin was forced to retire his Volvo after it suffered an engine failure. The young Kiwi’s car spat its timing belt out onto the circuit while he limped back to the pits, triggering a full-course caution while a marshal scrambled to retrieve the part.

Pos Driver Team / Entry Time
1. Mark Winterbottom Pepsi Max Crew 1:30:50.257
2. James Courtney Holden Racing Team + 2.923
3. David Reynolds The Bottle-O Racing Team + 6.163
4. Garth Tander Holden Racing Team + 10.416
5. Jamie Whincup Red Bull Racing + 14.160
6. Chaz Mostert Pepsi Max Crew + 15.260
7. Lee Holdsworth Walkinshaw Performance + 15.697
8. Andre Heimgartner Super Black Racing + 17.031
9. Craig Lowndes Red Bull Racing + 20.268
10. Todd Kelly Nissan Motorsport + 23.379

Image via V8 Supercars Championship

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Geoff Burke

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