Mixed fortunes for Whincup
TWO-time defending champion Jamie Whincup was the man to beat after claiming pole position for race 15 at the Townsville 400 last weekend.
Mark Winterbottom sat next to Whincup on the grid and took the lead from the start. The lead was soon taken from him by Garth Tander, and Whincup followed. Whincup was then able to steal the lead from an aggressive Tander.
Craig Lowndes started the race in 10th position and had a shocker at the start, hitting the side of his car against the wall on the opening lap, forcing him into the garage.
It didn’t get any better for Lowndes, as things got chaotic in pit lane when he rejoined the race 10 laps later. Due to an infringement in pit lane, Lowndes was forced back into the pits to do a drive-through penalty.
Two drivers who had a disastrous qualifying session were Russell Ingall and Jason Richards. The former qualified 27th and Richards 25th. However, during the race they did exceptionally well to recover, with Ingall finishing sixth and Richards seventh.
Whincup went on to win the race, making it his eighth victory of the year. Tander finished second and Winterbottom was third.
Whincup was able to grab back some valuable points on the championship lead of James Courtney, who finished fifth.
Going into the weekend, 57 points separated Courtney and Whincup and after race 15 there were only 18 points.
In Sunday’s qualifying Whincup was on top of the time sheet with a time of 1min 12.83s, recorded six minutes into the session.
However, Whincup wasn’t satisfied and later he produced a cracker of a lap, in a time of 1min 12.72s, to claim his eighth pole position of the season. He was the only man to record a lap time below 1min 13s over the weekend.
His team-mate Lowndes parked his Commodore next to Whincup on the grid after claiming second with a 1min 13.00s lap.
Tander started from third position after producing a 1min 13.10s, ahead of Courtney, who did 1min 13.12s. Lowndes led off the start but Whincup soon stole it back. Tander then took second from Lowndes.
Whincup’s car looked extremely quick as he led the race before he slowed suddenly, allowing Tander to pass. It came as a shock to everyone when Whincup drove into pit lane.
It was announced later that the problem was a brake line failure – something had flipped up and busted the brake line.
After the first pit stops were made Winterbottom came out in front of Tander. James Courtney and Lowndes entered pit lane at the same time, but Courtney leap-frogged Lowndes on the way out.
Courtney and Lowndes continued to fight, swapping places. At last Courtney regained third place, then Tander crashed into a wall in front of them.
Courtney slowed to avoid contact and the following Lowndes, oblivious to the situation, crashed into the back of Courtney.
The front of Lowndes’ car was smashed and his race was over.
Winterbottom went on to win race 16 for his second race win of the season. Courtney finished second and Tander, who managed to survive hitting the wall, was third.
Whincup managed to get back out and finished in 24th position, 13 laps behind the leaders.
Race 15: Jamie Whincup (Holden), 2 Garth Tander (Holden), 3 Mark Winterbottom (Ford), 4 Lee Holdsworth (Holden), 5 James Courtney (Ford).
Race 16: 1 Mark Winterbottom (Ford), 2 James Courtney (Ford), 3 Garth Tander (Holden), 4 Paul Dumbrell (Ford), 5 Steven Richards (Ford).
Championship Standings: 1 James Courtney (Ford) 1947 points, 2 Jamie Whincup (Holden) 1827, 3 Mark Winterbottom (Ford) 1623, 4 Shane van Gisbergen (Ford) 1598, 5 Garth Tander (Holden) 1509.