Triple Eight Race Engineering driver Jamie Whincup has extended his lead in the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship standings with victory in race one at Townsville, whilst a second place for Mark Winterbottom sees the FPR driver move ahead of his team-mate for second in the points.
Winterbottom had claimed pole position for the race in his Ford Performance Racing run Falcon FG, setting the fastest time in the qualifying shootout of 1:12.989. Winterbottom started ahead of the sister car of David Reynolds, with the two Triple Eight Holdens of Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes starting on row two.
‘Frosty’ held on to first place in the early stages, whilst the safety car was required from the outset at the end of lap one after a collision between Taz Douglas in the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsports car and Karl Reindler’s Kelly Racing Holden, with Dick Johnson Racing’s Dean Fiore crashing into Reindler’s spun car and with debris left on the circuit.
Having chosen to start on the soft tyres, Steve Owen in the #49 Dick Johnson Racing Falcon and Garth Tander in the Holden Racing Team Commodore began to move forward at the restart, passing Tony D’Alberto’s Ford, both of the Triple Eight Commodores and Reynolds and Winterbottom’s Fords to move into first and second by lap 13.
After the first pit stops for the leaders, a good stop for Will Davison saw the former championship leader get ahead of both of the Triple Eight cars, but unfortunately he didn’t have the pace to hold them behind, and both of them were able to get back ahead of within five laps.
The two Triple Eight cars were also now on the soft tyres and were able to pass Garth Tander’s Holden, who had now switched to the hard tyres. The Triple Eight cars were unable to pass Steve Owen’s car in this phase however, who was able to hold on to second at this point behind Winterbottom.
It transpired Owen was running a mixed tyre set-up of softs and hards, with Team Manager Paul Morris having come up with a novel interpretation of the rules which the V8 Supercars officials confirmed was legal.
Shane van Gisbergen endured a high speed spin on lap 34 in his Stone Brothers Racing Falcon and took damage, whilst at the same time Alexandre Prémat retired in his Garry Rogers Motorsport Holden. With the Frenchman’s Commodore stuck on circuit, the second safety car of the race was deployed, though it was several laps short of the final pit window.
At the restart, a lock-up from Owen gave Whincup the chance to snatch second, with team-mate Lowndes following through into third.
On the following lap, Jason Bright’s Brad Jones Racing Holden slammed into the back of Michael Caruso’s GRM Holden, with Bright out of the race and Caruso sustaining heavy damage to the rear of his Commodore. The safety car was out again and the front runners were able to pit for what should be their final pit stop.
With only one bay per team however, Triple Eight’s Craig Lowndes and Ford Performance Racing’s Will Davison lost a massive amount of ground stacking behind team-mates Whincup and Winterbottom. Winterbottom rejoined ahead of Whincup, whilst Lowndes and Davison were now at the back of the field.
Two laps after the restart, an error by Winterbottom, grazing the wall at Turn 10, gave Whincup the opportunity to pounce and take the lead, and the three-time champion began to pull away from the Ford driver, for what would become the lead after the final drivers which were off sequence made their final pit stops.
Tim Slade in the #47 Stone Brothers Racing Ford Falcon was involved in a no-holds-barred battle with Jonathon Webb’s Tekno Autosports Holden on lap 47. Webb had made an error and had gone off course, but rejoined hastily making contact with Webb’s Falcon. The two rubbed shoulders through the next few corners, with Slade eventually losing out, suffering a front-left puncture through the contact and would drop to 21st.
Craig Lowndes put on a masterful recovery drive through the field and worked his way up to fifth position by the chequered flag, despite having lost a huge amount of time in the pits. Will Davison didn’t quite do as well as Lowndes in the traffic, and ended up in 12th place.
Whincup and Winterbottom were still battling at the end, though the tone of the race changed into a conservation one with both cars marginal on fuel. It worked out for Whincup however, who crossed the line just over a second ahead of Winterbottom to take his fourth win of the season.
Winterbottom’s second place moves him ahead of team-mate Will Davison in the standings, and he is now 61 points behind Whincup in the standings, with Davison now 119 points behind.
Garth Tander finished in a strong third place for the Holden Racing Team, whilst Fabian Coulthard matched his best result of the year with fourth for Brad Jones Racing.
Jacques Villeneuve, making his ‘full length’ V8 Supercars debut this weekend, had qualified in 28th in the #51 Kelly Racing Holden and had made good progress in the early stages, but was forced out on lap 20 with an oil leak.
The second race of the weekend takes place on Sunday at 15:35 AEST (07:35 CET), with qualifying at 12:35 AEST.