Jamie Whincup has put himself in the pound seats to claim his seventh Supercars Championship crown with an assured drive to victory in Sunday’s closing race at the ITM Auckland SuperSprint round.
The Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver converted pole position into a lead which he held for the entire race – save for the pit stop cycles – to win a head-to-head fight with his main championship rival Scott McLaughlin.
McLaughlin narrowly missed out on jumping the championship leader in the second cycle of pit stops, emerging just inches behind the Holden when he rejoined the circuit. He pushed Whincup hard in the laps that immediately followed, but fading tyres meant he fell back towards the end of the 70-lap race.
Whincup’s victory gives him a crucial 30-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship over McLaughlin ahead of the season-ending Newcastle 500 round, where a maximum of 300 points will be on offer.
Third place went to Prodrive Racing’s Cameron Waters, however the youngster faces a post-race investigation for a clumsy opening lap move that saw him punt teammates Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert into a spin at the hairpin. The two sideways Fords created chaos in the tightly-packed midfield, with the Holdens of Lee Holdsworth and James Courtney both forced to retired after clattering into Winterbottom’s car.
Mostert managed to claw his way back from 23rd place to seventh by the chequered flag to keep himself mathematically in contention for the Drivers’ Championship battle, although he is 264 points adrift of Whincup.
Whincup’s teammate and Saturday race-winner Shane van Gisbergen saw his slim hopes of defending his 2016 title take a major hit. Lying fourth in the championship standings thanks to his victory the day before, van Gisbergen needed another large points’ haul to stay in contention.
On Lap 16, it all came undone. Chasing Tim Slade into pit lane, the New Zealander was too fast on approach to the pit lane speed limiter indicator and slammed into the back of Slade’s BJR Holden. The collision caused major front-end damage to van Gisbergen’s car, but his mechanics worked heroically to get him back out on track to see him finish 24th and last, almost 14 laps down. The few points he claimed for finishing kept him in the five-way scrap for the title, however he is a long shot given his 286-point deficit to Whincup.
The third Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden of Craig Lowndes finished fourth ahead of Fabian Coulthard, who was miraculously back on track after rolling his DJR Team Penske Ford in Saturday’s race. The New Zealander finished fifth to keep his championship hopes alive; he is 176 points behind Whincup.
Garth Tander (GRM Holden) drove strongly to claim sixth from eleventh on the grid, holding off a hard-charging Mostert who rapidly made up places late in the race.
Mostert’s teammate Jason Bright handed over seventh place on the final lap, with James Moffat (GRM Holden) and Scott Pye (Mobil1 HSV Racing) completing the top ten.
|2017 Australian Supercars ITM Auckland SuperSprint – Race 24 Top-10 Finishers (70 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Result|
|1.||Jamie Whincup||Red Bull Holden Racing Team||1:17:11.7118|
|2.||Scott McLaughlin||Shell V-Power DJR Team Penske||+ 5.906|
|3.||Cameron Waters||Monster Energy Racing||+ 8.660|
|4.||Craig Lowndes||TeamVortex||+ 18.790|
|5.||Fabian Coulthard||Shell V-Power DJR Team Penske||+ 25.606|
|6.||Garth Tander||Wilson Security Racing GRM||+ 29.498|
|7.||Chaz Mostert||Supercheap Auto Racing Team||+ 31.902|
|8.||Jason Bright||MEGA Racing||+ 32.379|
|9.||James Moffat||Wilson Security Racing GRM||+ 38.333|
|10.||Scott Pye||Mobil 1 HSV Racing||+ 39.309|
Image via Red Bull Content Pool
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