Mark Winterbottom held off a hard-charging David Reynolds to win Saturday’s V8 Supercars race on the streets of Townsville.
The key moment in the race for Winterbottom was the start, the PRA driver making a blinder from the outside of the front row to lead team-mate Chaz Mostert into Turn 1.
From there he effectively led the whole way, perfectly executing the softs-hards-softs strategy by pitting on Lap 14, completing a short stint on the hards, and then completing a 39-lap stint back on the softs to bring it home in front and extend his title lead.
The only nervous part of the race for Winterbottom was the last 10 laps, with team-mate Reynolds making a big play for the lead. But in the end Winterbottom was able to do enough to hold on for victory.
“That was awesome,” he said.
“We pushed the limits on the tyres, there was nothing left at the end. It was really close, I thought [Reynolds] might have a go.
“This track could have been difficult, it was in the past, but today was awesome.”
Darwin winner Reynolds did well to jump PRA team-mate Mostert at the end of the first stint, a move that would ultimately yield second place. The difference was that Mostert pitted six laps earlier than Reynolds in the first phase of the race, which put him in the pack while Reynolds continued to follow Winterbottom around at the front.
“My car was performing pretty well,” said Reynolds.
“We held on, went 1-2, so it’s perfect for the team.”
Fabian Coulthard took a slightly different approach to the preferred strategy, short-filling at the first stop to gain track position after being caught up in the midfield.
The clever move put Coulthard in the faster lead bunch, and even after having to be stationary longer than the others during his second stop, he still managed to emerge in what was effectively fourth spot.
When Mostert started to run out of tyres late in the race Coulthard was there to pounce, quickly clearing the Prodrive car to take an unlikely podium with third spot.
Scott McLaughlin (fourth), Scott Pye (fifth) and James Courtney (sixth) all ran pretty similar strategies – medium stint, short stint, long stint – while a fast-starting Garth Tander finished seventh, ahead of Mostert.
Jamie Whincup was finally back in the Top 10, but still couldn’t trouble the Prodrive cars at the front. In the first part of the race, the reigning champion looked as racey as the leading Fords. However, he then struggled for pace during his middle stint on the hard tyre.
Once back on the softs Whincup was again one of the fastest cars on track, but could only manage ninth after losing so much track position during the middle stint.
Shane van Gisbergen was forced to turn his race into a salvage job after being sent to the back of the grid thanks to a tyre infringement in qualifying. From dead last, van Gisbergen came home 10th.
The key to the Kiwi’s recovery was a long opening stint on the soft tyres, van Gisbergen gaining track position by going all the way through to Lap 22 on the soft tyre before switching to the hard.