Jamie Whincup couldn’t have filled a coffee cup with the amount of fuel left in his Holden Commodore after 72 laps of V8 Supercar competition at Townsville yesterday, but what he had was enough to get him to the finish line.
Whincup and the rest of the field found themselves in fuel conservation mode in the second half of the Sucrogen Townsville 400, but the series points leader was able to save enough to get him to the line two seconds ahead of championship antagonist Mark Winterbottom for the win.
The Team Vodafone driver had to stretch his fuel load while at the same time using enough power to wade through a field scrambled by a pair of mid-race accidents. Whincup was able to navigate the traffic well enough to keep Winterbottom at bay, eventually taking the lead for good on Lap 59 when Russell Ingall and James Coulthard pitted for the last time.
"That was a great race with Frosty (Winterbottom) and there was plenty of backmarkers to navigate through so it was great to get the lead,” Whincup said. “It's a fantastic week here in Townsville win lose or draw but to have a win makes it even more special, it was a good team win this one."
The win allowed Whincup to stretch his V8 Supercars Championship points lead to 61 over Winterbottom after 14 events. The victory was the 56th of his career.
After leading early, Winterbottom would settle for an unhappy second ahead of Garth Tander, Fabian Coulthard (who matched a season-high finish) and Craig Lowndes, who came from 20th on the grid to round out the top five.
"I'm a little disappointed with that race to be honest," admitted Winterbottom. "Full credit to Jamie but there were a few lapped cars that got in the way a little bit … but it is what it is and we're on the podium so we'll celebrate this result then turn up tomorrow and try and go again."
Tander started 10th but climbed to fifth in just five laps after choosing to start the race of softer tires. He worked his way up to second before his first pit stop, then benefitted from the fuel dilemma facing that teams found themselves in on their way to the checkered flag.
Jacques Villeneuve suffered through a rough day in his first race of the year, standing in for the injured Greg Murphy. The former World Champion lasted just 18 laps before engine troubles sent him to the paddock.
“That was unfortunate. All of the Pepsi Max Crew, we knew the race pace would be better than qualifying. But it was actually a lot better in the race because I could keep up and catch the guys in front of me and I was just driving easy,” Villeneuve reported. “That was a great feeling, but early on the engine gave up. That’s disappointing because I was hoping to get a lot of laps in today just to make sure that I would be ready for tomorrow.”