REIGNING series champion Jamie Whincup today staged a stunning comeback to claim his third race win of the season and give Red Bull Racing Australia its first ever clean sweep of a V8 Supercars round.
Whincup took out Perth races two and three – the latter from team-mate Craig Lowndes – to extend his championship lead and announce his return to form in the all-new No.1 VF Commodore.
The reigning champion dominated Sunday’s first race before starting on pole beside team-mate Lowndes in the final race of the weekend for Red Bull Racing Australia’s inaugural front-row lock-out. The pair finished in the same positions to give the team its second one-two of the weekend and extend their teams’ championship lead from Ford Performance Racing.
But it quite easily could have been a disaster after Whincup fell victim to leaked fluid from Maro Engel’s car and was sent spearing into the dirt coming on to the straight. Mark Winterbottom followed and he and Whincup fell to ninth and sixth respectively, allowing Lowndes to claim the lead while Whincup dived into the pits for four green tyres. What happened next was a thing of magic, Whincup pulling off a miraculous comeback – with the assistance of two safety cars and smart team strategy – to slot into second behind Lowndes after the entire field pitted, before claiming the lead from his team-mate inside the final 10 laps.
“I did it the hard way,” Whincup said.
“I’m sure there was oil down there and I thought I was going to get bogged but just kept my foot on it and nailed it. From there, I just tried to consolidate and a few safety cars went my way. And luckily Lowndesy played a straight bat like a good team-mate does and similar to race one, he let me pass when he could have made it twice as hard for me and who knows what would have happened. “So I appreciate he’s a good team-mate. We had the quickest car today and it feels good to say that.
“We’ve been saying we’re slowly improving and that we’re going to get there, so it’s good to be able to finally prove we can go quick and hopefully this is the start of something big and we can continue this form onto Texas and the rest of the year.”
Lowndes was just as quick, only two fewer green tyres preventing him from holding off a fast-finishing Whincup. In Sunday’s first race, Lowndes started from the second row of the grid and got off to a flying start, only for a stalled Jason Bright to force the three-time champion onto the grass in an effort to avoid a collision. The second race however, there were no such issues, just safety cars to reel him back to the field after putting together a 1.5 second lead not once but twice.
“We have had an up and down weekend really but I’m happy,” said Lowndes, who registered his 91st win on Saturday to set a new Australian touring car record.
“The car was good in the last part of the race but we just didn’t have the tyres to keep Jamie at bay. It was tooth and nail right at the end. He had a full set at the end and I only had half a set, so I think that might have hurt us a little bit but we’re happy. It’s a Red Bull one-two for the second time this weekend.”
Whincup now leads the championship on 958 points from Will Davison (893) and Craig Lowndes (843). Red Bull Racing Australia leads the teams’ championship on 1741 points from Ford Performance Racing (1559).
Meanwhile, two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner continued his V8 Supercars initiation, completing the fourth and fifth races of his new career on four wheels. While consistently in the top-10 for lap speed, the 27-year-old found himself victim of rough and tumble in both Sunday races.
Forced to start form 21st after a race one altercation on the Saturday, Stoner moved into 20th before being pushed off the track in race two to find himself last. But like the day earlier, he fought back to win the places he lost and finish the race in the same position he started.
It was more of the same in the third race, Stoner starting 21st and finishing 20th.
Stoner said he’s enjoyed his V8 experiences so far but needs more time in the car to realise his potential.
“It’s honestly just quality time in the car I need,” said Stoner, whose last race was two months ago.
“This was only our fifth time in the car this year and in any car really. So it’s a matter of trying to learn and manage race situations a little bit better. Hopefully we can do a little bit of a better job next time. I’m really enjoying my time in the car and I’m looking forward to Townsville.”
Stoner’s next race in the Dunlop Development Series will be the weekend of July 5-7 in his Red Bull Pirtek Holden.
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