Mark Winterbottom made sure no one discounted his V8 Supercar title hopes Saturday at Phillip Island as the driver of the Orrcon Tools Ford powered to his third win of the season, outrunning Shane van Gisbergen and Tim Slade.
The victory was a boon to Winterbottom’s championship hopes, but it didn’t help nearly as much as a Lap 29 altercation between title protagonists Jamie Whincup and Will Davison. While Winterbottom earned 150 points for the win, the crash that claimed the cars of both Whincup and Davison kept them from scoring, and vaulted Winterbottom to within 10 points of the championship lead.
“It’s about making minimal mistakes out there,” said a smiling Winterbottom after his win. “When I saw the #1 (Whincup) on the side of the road, I wasn’t too upset, I can tell you that!”
Davison, who had battled door-to-door with Winterbottom for the lead just laps earlier, got shouldered into the grass while racing Tim Slade and once he got off the asphalt, control was a memory. Davidson fishtailed into the path of Whincup at the entrance to Turn Four, ripping both cars away from the top of the field and putting them out of the race.
“Once I hit the grass, I was just a passenger,” Davison recalled. “I was aware of what was going on, I saw the car heading toward Whincup, I didn’t want to T-bone him and it was a shame the way it happened.”
Starting the race on the pole, Winterbottom had to deal with a rampaging David Reynolds at the start of the race, as Reynolds sprinted away with the lead in his quest to win his claim his first series win. The dream lasted until lap 12 when problems with his refueling rig kept him dropped him out of contention.
“What can I say? Today was both the highs and lows of racing. I had a brilliant start, brilliant first stint and all was fine until the refueling issue on the pit stop,” Reynolds said. “We will regroup tomorrow and come back better. They say incidents like today’s are character building but I think I have built up enough character.”
Winterbottom moved into second place in the standing with the win, while van Gisbergen and Slade rounded out the podium. Garth Tander and Lee Holdsworth rounded out the top five, Tander leapfrogging Craig Lowndes for fourth in the points chase with the result. Lowndes ran the fastest lap of the race, but finished 13th after incurring a drive-through penalty.