Defending Supercars champion Mark Winterbottom has atoned for a disappointing title defense with a dominant victory in the third race of the ITM Auckland SuperSprint at Pukekohe Park Raceway.

Behind the Prodrive Racing Ford driver, however, there was plenty of drama when the season’s chief title rivals Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen tangled in a clumsy own-goal between the Red Bull Racing teammates.

Van Gisbergen fluffed his start from pole position and was running ahead of Whincup when he attempted an ambitious pass on Lap 12. The multiple-champion only succeeded in locking up his rear wheels and hitting the right-rear corner of van Gisbergen as the New Zealander turned into the hairpin, tipping both into a spin.

Whincup was handed a potentially championship-killing drive-through penalty and fell to finish a lowly 25th, while van Gisbergen put the dramas behind him and delivered a stirring recovery drive to claim third place.

None of this should detract from Winterbottom, who outdragged Scott Pye’s DJR Team Penske Ford off the start line and bravely hung on around the outside of the youngster in the sprint through Turn 1. That gave him the inside line for the Turn 2/3 chicane and a lead he would never surrender.

Despite being overtaken by van Gisbergen and Whincup before their collision, Pye was subsequently promoted back into second place and managed to hang on for a season’s best finish.

Craig Lowndes crossed the line in fourth place ahead of Pye’s teammate Fabian Coulthard, whom Lowndes nerfed at the rear in order to complete the passing move on the New Zealander.

Winterbottom’s teammate Chaz Mostert finished in sixth place ahead of Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin – whose car sported a crumpled front end after nose-to-tail contact on the opening lap, while Will Davison rounded out the top-eight finishers.

The final 100-kilometre race of the ITM Auckland SuperSprint takes place later today at 16:45 local time (GMT +13).

2016 Australian Supercars ITM Auckland SuperSprint – Race 26 Top-10 Finishers (35 laps)
Pos Driver Team / Entry Result
1. Mark Winterbottom Prodrive Racing 38:06.269
2. Scott Pye DJR Team Penske + 10.149
3. Shane van Gisbergen Triple Eight Engineering + 12.993
3. Craig Lowndes Triple Eight Engineering + 13.895
5. Fabian Coulthard DJR Team Penske + 15.413
6. Chaz Mostert Prodrive Racing + 16.303
7. Scott McLaughlin Polestar GRM Volvo + 18.034
8. Will Davison TEKNO Autosports + 20.573
9. Rick Kelly Nissan Motorsport + 20.859
10. Garth Tander Holden Racing Team + 21.713

Image via Edge Photographics

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Geoff Burke

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