An event record Saturday attendance of more than 21,000 people filled Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway to see the V8 Supercars lead change hands again during this 2012 campaign, as Jamie Whincup rolled to a victory in the first of two weekend events.
Whincup used strong tire management to come from the fourth spot on the Darwin grid to win the race, besting Will Davison and Mark Winterbottom by 5.8 seconds. The win promotes the Team Vodafone driver two points ahead of Davison in the point standings, giving Whincup the lead for the second time this season.
“The car was very good, it didn’t matter what tire it was on,” Whincup said. “It was set-up perfectly. It’s an educated decision from the engineers to throw the roll bars and springs up in the air and come up with a combination and my race engineer did a perfect job of that today. It’s certainly the quickest car of the year.”
Whincup started his day on the harder Dunlop compound and held his position for the first 14 laps before taking off for the front. Just six laps after making his initial charge, Whincup had passed David Reynolds for the lead, then pitted for softer shoes just four laps later. He easily reclaimed the lead when Winterbottom pitted and was never headed on his way to the 55th win of his career.
“Today is a good step forward, without a doubt. I’m very encouraged with what we have seen here today but we will keep our heads down and keep pushing on,” Whincup said after winning the 42-lap feature. “I wouldn’t say we’ve had a tough start to the year but it’s certainly had its challenges and we have been working through them.”
Davison ran a strong second to finish ahead of Winterbottom while Craig Lowndes had one of the most interesting fourth-place runs of his vaunted career. A Lap Three spin dropped Lowndes back to 21st, but he ran an amazing 37 laps on a single set of soft Dunlop rubber to finish fourth. Lowndes’ drive was made more impressive by the fact that he wasn’t just sitting back and making ground by attrition. He ran the fastest lap of the race on 21-lap-old tires, and made a pass of Reynolds for fourth 10 laps after that. “I was trying to stay out of trouble but had an incident and spun out. We were lucky with the Safety Car that I could do an extra stop and get back in touch with the leaders. A two-stop race wasn’t part of the plan though,” Lowndes laughed. “We learnt a lot from last year about the soft tires. If you try and do hard laps on them in the first two (out of the pits), you take a lot of the goodness out of them. You have to be gentle in the beginning and they stay with you a lot longer.”