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Jamie Whincup has closed in on a historic fifth V8 Supercars Championship with a maiden victory in the opening race of the Sydney 500.
The Red Bull Racing driver led home a double podium for Tekno Autosports Jonathon Webb and Shane van Gisbergen while Championship rivals Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes collided ending Winterbottom’s title hopes and leaving Lowndes 110 points behind ahead of Sunday’s season-ending race.
Winterbottom and Lowndes opted to pit early to clear traffic climbing to third and fourth respectively before the first safety car period. Then on the restart lap, Lowndes overtook Winterbottom at turn nine but the Ford driver argued the point, running into the left rear corner of the Red Bull machine, spinning Lowndes at turn ten. The Holden bounced off the wall collecting Winterbottom and stable-mate David Reynolds (The Bottle-O FPR Ford) and Supercheap Auto Racing’s Russell Ingall. The stewards will be investigating the incident between Lowndes and Winterbottom post-race.
As a result of damage sustained in the lap 15 incident with Winterbottom, Lowndes was unable to get his full load of fuel in his second pit stop necessitating a third stop dropping him back to 22nd position, before he fought back to finish 15th.
In the dying laps Winterbottom’s day ended after he was spun at turn ten by Team Hiflex’s Tony D’Alberto. The Falcon suffered massive front damage, forcing Winterbottom to retire with less than ten laps to go.
The first of a quartet of safety cars had been brought out on lap 11 after Scott McLaughlin (Fujitsu Racing GRM) stopped on track. The majority of the field entered pit lane and a number of teams were forced to stack their cars, causing massive congestion in the narrow pits. Jason Bright (Team BOC) made contact with Maro Engel (SP Tools Racing) as Bright left his bay.
The safety car re-appeared on lap 17 after Tim Blanchard (Wilson Security Racing) was forced into the wall at turn one by van Gisbergen.
Lee Holdsworth (Irwin Racing) continued his season of bad luck suffering steering damage to his Mercedes. The team were able to repair the car but he was later handed a pit lane drive through penalty for driving through a red light at the pit lane exit.
After a disastrous qualifying session, Garth Tander (Holden Racing Team) again found the wall at turn one on the thirty-seventh lap as he battled for position with van Gisbergen.
Engel’s day ended on lap fifty-six when his car stopped on track, resulting in the third safety car of the day.
Scott Pye (Sargent Security Racing) came together with James Moffat (Norton Hornets) at turn two on lap sixty-four, causing a brief safety car. Moffat was given a drive through penalty for his part in the contact.
On the second-last lap Coulthard and van Gisbergen made contact at turn eight as the Tekno driver punted his fellow kiwi into the wall. The move vaulted van Gisbergen onto the podium with teammate Jonathon Webb.
At the end of the carnage the top ten were Whincup, Webb, van Gisbergen, Bright, Will Davison, D’Alberto, Michael Caruso, Tim Slade and Rick Kelly.
Will Davison has jumped to third 262 points off Whincup, Winterbottom is 274 points back and Fabian Coulthard sits in fifth 524 points from the lead.
The V8’s are back on the streets of Homebush at 1240 local time for qualifying for Race 36.