Jamie Whincup has unofficially secured his fourth V8 Supercar Championship victory, after placing first and third in the two races at this weekend’s Winton round.
The TeamVodafone driver entered the round some 296 points ahead of his nearest rival, Mark Winterbottom, and needed only to extend this lead to 300 points to mathematically secure the 2012 championship title.
Winterbottom finished fourth in the Saturday race, and second in the Sunday race, extending the gap between he and Whincup to 317 points, leaving just potential penalty points at the final Homebush round as Whincup’s only risk to maintaining the coveted #1 race number.
Whincup’s chances of maintaining his points lead was under threat from the get-go, with Winterbottom taking pole for the Saturday race by just 0.07 seconds ahead of Whincup.
Any disadvantage to Whincup soon disappeared after excessive wheelspin from Winterbottom at the start handed the race lead to Whincup before the first corner.
Third qualifier Jason Bright fared far worse, colliding with James Moffat at Turn 2 before spinning at Turn 3 in an incident which also involved Rick Kelly, James Courtney and Michael Caruso and brought out the Safety Car.
This Safety Car period saw Winterbottom, Lowndes, Slade, Webb, Patrizi and D’Alberto all pit early to switch to soft tyres.
Moffat had started the race on the faster soft tyres, and capitalised on his credible fifth qualifying position to eventually lead the field for more than half the race.
The Team Norton DJR driver eventually fell back to fifth after pitting for hard tyres, while Whincup, Lowndes, Holdsworth and Winterbottom conversely had their turn using the soft tyre.
Winterbottom’s grip on Whincup’s points lead was further loosened when he ran out of fuel on the last corner of the Saturday race, handing third place to Lee Holdsworth and was eventually pushed back to the pits by FPR teammate David Reynolds.
Whincup started from pole in the Sunday race, before dropping back to 23rd after being handed a drive-through penalty for allowing his rear wheels to rotate during his first pit stop.
In a display of talent befitting a four-time championship winner, Whincup managed to climb back to third place despite a lack of subsequent Safety Car periods - reaching the championship-critical fourth place with just five laps to go.
Will Davison’s 16th in qualifying for the Saturday race and subsequent DNF looked to be balanced by a second in qualifying for the Sunday race.
However, the one-time championship contender eventually finished 11th after his soft tyre session advantage was scuppered by an early Safety Car period brought on by James Moffat’s car suffering electrical problems.
Craig Lowndes led the race for the final 17 laps, before greeting the chequered flag for the sixth time this season and forming the 16th win from the last 17 starts for TeamVodafone.
Lowndes’ Sunday win and second on Saturday bring him 30 points closer to Winterbottom (now 63 points off), while Davison falls to 408 points beneath Lowndes.
The 2012 V8 Supercar Championship will officially conclude with the final round at Sydney Olympic Park in two weeks time.
Top Ten V8SC Series Race 28 results - Winton Motor Raceway
- Craig Lowndes
- Mark Winterbottom
- Jamie Whincup
- Shane Van Gisbergen
- Tim Slade
- Jason Bright
- Jonathon Webb
- David Reynolds
- Russell Ingall
- Lee Holdsworth
Top Ten V8SC Points Standings
- Jamie Whincup 3639
- Mark Winterbottom 3322
- Craig Lowndes 3259
- Will Davison 2851
- Shane Van Gisbergen 2554
- Tim Slade 2532
- Garth Tander 2363
- Lee Holdsworth 2120
- David Reynolds 2037
- Fabian Coulthard 1975