A third-placed finish proved to be more than enough to see Mark Winterbottom claim an emotional maiden V8 Supercars Championship title in Saturday’s second race of the Sydney 500, which was won by Jamie Whincup.
Needing to finish no worse than 20th in order to sew up the championship battle between he and Whincup’s teammate, Craig Lowndes, Winterbottom put in a near faultless performance to seal the deal in his tenth season of racing in the top-flight touring car championship.
The Prodrive Racing driver was justifiably in tears on his slow-down lap back to the pits and the usually talkative racer was almost speechless when he stepped out of the car.
“I have a few tears under this visor, I’ve dreamt about this for such a long time,” he said. “I’m so emotional, I’m speechless it is just awesome. Thanks to all the guys at the team.”
Winterbottom finished 5.4 seconds adrift of Whincup, who put in another commanding performance to claim back-to-back victories at the event after winning Saturday’s first 125-kilometre race. Winterbottom’s stablemate David Reynolds finished a fine second in his penultimate race for the team before he moves to Erebus Motorsport.
Whincup’s run to victory was seamless, leaping off the line ahead of Reynolds to build an early cushion before the compulsory pit stops.
A potential spanner in the works came when Winterbottom’s stand-in teammate, his Enduro Cup co-driver Steve Owen, ground to a halt on Lap 10 with an engine sensor issue, throwing doubt on the reliability of the championship leader’s Ford Falcon FG X.
Up at the front, Whincup took advantage of the Safety Car call to pit and emerge still in the lead over Reynolds, who had a momentary scare when his left front began to smoke.
His pace wasn’t diminished and he chased Whincup over the line, finishing 1.8 seconds behind the Red Bull Racing driver.
Winterbottom had an easy run to third and was never threatened by fourth-placed James Courtney, who had Scott McLaughlin’s Volvo keeping him company in the closing stages. Shane van Gisbergen finished sixth, just ahead of Craig Lowndes, who was Winterbottom’s sole championship contender coming into this event.
Rick Kelly, Scott Pye and Lee Holdsworth completed the top ten finishers.
The race produced relatively few incidents of note, although James Moffat’s untidy Saturday streak continued when he completely misjudged the Turn 2 chicane and broke his Nissan’s front suspension with a wild launch over the kerbs. Moffat had previously crashed out in qualifying and broken his steering with an opportunistic lunge during the start of the preceding race at Turn 1.
|2015 V8 Supercars Coates Hire Sydney 500 – Race 35 Top-10 Finishers (37 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Time|
|1.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Racing / Triple 8||56:13.363|
|2.||David Reynolds||Rod Nash Racing||+ 1.821|
|3.||Mark Winterbottom||Prodrive Racing Australia||+ 5.482|
|4.||James Courtney||Holden Racing Team||+ 7.125|
|5.||Scott McLaughlin||Polestar GRM Volvo||+ 8.047|
|6.||Shane van Gisbergen||TEKNO Autosports||+ 10.374|
|7.||Craig Lowndes||Red Bull Racing / Triple 8||+ 10.767|
|8.||Rick Kelly||Nissan Motorsport||+ 11.225|
|9.||Scott Pye||DJR Team Penske||+ 14.649|
|10.||Lee Holdsworth||Walkinshaw Racing||+ 15.104|
Image via Motorsport.com