Jamie Whincup became the first man to sweep a V8 Supercars Championship weekend Sunday as he outpaced the field to take a second win at the Sucrogen Townsville 400, but he never got a moment’s rest on his way to the victory.
Whincup – who came from ninth on the grid to claim his fifth win of the year – battled tooth-and-nail with Team Vodafone stablemate Craig Lowndes throughout the second half of the 400km event before taking the checkered flag.
“I’ve never raced with Craig so hard,” Whincup said. “We had great cars in Darwin and I was a little soft then so I thought this time round I will give it a good crack. We had a cracking battle with good cars; tires running down … it was all good stuff. The rear tires were pretty shot at the end.”
The series points leader spent the first few laps trying to make his way into the top five as David Reynolds held serve at the front after claiming his first V8 Supercars pole position. Whincup made up four spots during his first pit stop to get into the top five, putting himself in position to capitalize on a rare Lowndes mistake.
I’ve never raced with Craig so hard. We had great cars in Darwin and I was a little soft then so I thought this time round I will give it a good crack. We had a cracking battle with good cars; tires running down … it was all good stuff
Lowndes was running fourth behind a trip of Ford Falcons as the field prepped for their second pit stops when he inadvertently hit his pit-lane speed limiter button heading into Turn 11. The button dropped his engine output to about 25 mph, allowing Whincup to slip past and into fourth.
The miscue proved costly soon after as Whincup passed Will Davison for third, then emerged from his final stop in the lead after quick service from the Team Vodafone squad.
Lowndes fought back after Whincup in an attempt to atone for the mistake, and climbed to the rear bumper of his teammate’s Holden Commodore before Fabian Coulthard’s incident brought out the safety car with 10 laps to go.
Whincup held the point on the restart, with Lowndes close behind. Lowndes actually passed Whincup twice in the final 10 laps, including once with four laps to go, but could not make the move stick. Meanwhile, Davison was circulating relatively comfortably in third, waiting for the teammates ahead of him to make a mistake.
"I missed a couple of apexes watching the battle ahead of me .. I had the best seat in the house but I was ready to capitalize if they had a mishap!" said Davison. “I have to thank my boys because I've been a bit of a pain this weekend and haven't been at my best. We had a tough day yesterday so it was a massive turnaround today."
Garth Tander came from 13th on the starting grid to finish fourth, making a late-race pass of Mark Winterbottom to take the fourth spot away from the title contender. Winterbottom, who placed fifth and finds himself 100 points behind championship leader Whincup, suffered brake problems at the end of the day that cost him valuable points.
“I suffered brake fade so I lost brake performance and that meant I was a vulnerable late in the race and certainly couldn’t pass anyone,” Winterbottom said. “Townsville is a tough track to pass on, but with brakes going it is impossible. It was also a really tough day inside the car physically so for me it was all about survival.”
The V8 Supercars are now off until the first weekend in August, when they reach the halfway point in the 15-event season with the Coates Hire Ipswich 300.