Jamie Whincup has claimed a crucial race victory to keep his Supercars Championship hopes alive in the first race of this weekend’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint round at Pukekohe Park Raceway in New Zealand.

The Red Bull Racing driver beat home his chief tital rival and teammate Shane van Gisbergen after jumping the pole-sitting New Zealander at the start. The margin of victory at the end of the 35-lap race was close to seven seconds.

The race was red-flagged at the end of the opening lap after a frightening crash for Jason Bright. The Brad Jones Racing Holden driver tangled with Super Black Racing’s Chris Pither as they exited the hairpin, which sent Bright careening into the barriers at the pit lane entry.

Fortunately Bright received little more than a shaking, but his car is too badly damaged to take part in the weekend’s second race. Pither was awarded a drive-through penalty to be served when the race resumed, and he finished a lap down in 24th position.

The race was restarted on Lap 6 with the order at the top unchanged; Whincup was able to steradily ease away from van Gisbergen to victory.

Scott McLaughlin ensured there would be two local drivers on the podium by claiming third place for Volvo ahead of defending champion Mark Winterbottom; the pair staged an entertaining scrap early on, rubbing panels on a number of occasions in the tense exchange.

The Holden Racing Team pair of Garth Tander and James Courtney ran in close company to round out the top-six ahead of Nissan Motorsport drivers Rick Kelly and Michael Caruso.

Saturday’s second sprint race, also to be run over 35 laps, gets underway at 16:45 local time (GMT +13).

2016 Australian Supercars ITM Auckland SuperSprint – Race 24 Top-10 Finishers (35 laps)
Pos Driver Team / Entry Result
1. Jamie Whincup Triple Eight Engineering 45:37.758
2. Shane van Gisbergen Triple Eight Engineering + 6.505
3. Scott McLaughlin Polestar GRM Volvo + 8.026
4. Mark Winterbottom Prodrive Racing + 10.200
5. Garth Tander Holden Racing Team + 10.939
6. James Courtney Holden Racing Team + 13.677
7. Rick Kelly Nissan Motorsport + 17.375
8. Michael Caruso Nissan Motorsport + 21.189
9. Scott Pye DJR Team Penske + 22.027
10. Will Davison TEKNO Autosports + 22.666

Image via Red Bull Content Pool

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.