John Maricic, V8 Supercars Correspondent
He may have been knocked down yesterday after being beaten off the starting line and then dropping back to 23rd after tyre issues, but in true championship style Team Vodafone driver Jamie Whincup bounced back to take the chequered flag at Sydney Motorsport Park this afternoon.
Although he didn’t secure pole, he grabbed 2nd in practice and qualifying and when it counted he jumped ahead of team mate Craig Lowndes when the lights went out and later throughout the race he increased his lead over Lowndes who lost valuable seconds during his pit stop when a rattle gun failed to remove his rear right tyre.
Stand out for the day was “The “Enforcer” Russell Ingall who took provisional pole during practice, 8th during qualifying and finished 4th behind Mark Winterbottom in the Orrcon Steel Ford. On the grid Ingall joked that he was looking to renewing his contract and it was time that he started to ensuring that he would only be successful if he achieved results. After a handful of laps Ingall passed Lowndes and Whincup whilst he was on the soft tyres.
Today’s win has promoted Whincup back into the championship lead and only 1 point separates him and Winterbottom with Lowndes back in 4th and 154 points in arrears.
Team principal Roland Dane stressed at the press conference that he had asked the team to push hard after the Ford pairing of Winterbottom and Will Davison had won 10 races this season and following this weekend Team Vodafone had managed to snare 9. Whincup indicates that he had a strong car but had to “nurse the front right”. On his championship prospects, he said, “I expect it to go down to the wire in the last race” (Sydney Olympic Park).
Team mate Lowndes was disappointed whilst stuck in the pit. “I noticed the fuel hose was off before the wheels went down which is unusual then I had to pass Will and Frosty (Winterbottom) and Jamie was 8 seconds down the road and I was never going to catch him” Lowndes said.
The series heads to Melbourne in three weeks time for the Sandown 500, the first of two endurance races this season followed by the Bathurst 1000 in October. Although the 500 temporarily moved to Phillip Island, Lowndes indicated that it belonged back at Sandown.