REIGNING series champion Jamie Whincup has claimed his first race win of 2013 and extended his V8 Supercars championship lead after overcoming a horror race one to claim race two at Pukekohe Park Raceway, New Zealand.
It should well have been two from two had Whincup not suffered a shock tyre blow-out in race one while leading on the opening lap. It resulted in a 26th-placed finish and the Pukekohe Jinx looked set to continue for Triple Eight before Whincup scored his first victory since Winton, 2012 in the afternoon.
He overcame a last-lap shunt from Mark Winterbottom to do so and gave Red Bull Racing Australia its second race win of the season.
“It was a tough race to start the day in race one – we don’t seem to have much luck here -but the win certainly takes the sting out of that,” said Whincup, who started from pole in race one and from third in race two.
“But I’ve finally got that race win which feels good because everyone all week has been asking me about when I was going to win one. I’m pretty happy to get our first win of the year – especially after the first race drama. I used the curb out of turn four like I normally do and it popped the tyre off the rim and ended my race. All I was thinking was ‘There goes 80 points’, you know. But we’ve got the win now and the car feels a lot better than last week.”
And while Whincup claimed Triple Eight Race Engineering’s first win in Auckland from 16 attempts, Lowndes’ run of bad luck continued. A qualifying mishap in race one, in which he locked a tyre in the shoot-out when leading, saw him relegated to 10th. He had a little reprieve when penalties to other Fabian Coulthard and Garth Tander allowed him to start eighth. And with a sniff and Whincup and Winterbottom both out of contention with tyre dramas from the same curb – and both suffered while leading – Lowndes made it home in third. He then looked a certainty to finish the day with a double podium before an error on lap 22 saw him leave the track and go from second to 16th.
“The good news is the car is much better on the hard tyre for us with the way we set the car up and to come from eighth to third in the first race was incredible,”Lowndes said.
“We made a lot of improvement on last week in race one and other than a little error in race two – I came in too deep on the brakes at five and just got the grass edge- the car was quick. It just lacked a little bit of rear again, so we’ll talk to Jeromy (Moore – engineer). Looking at what we were racing around though, I think we had a very good car and setup. I’m much happier than last week and luckily we’ve got two more races tomorrow.”
Whincup leads the series on 601 points with Lowndes in third on 489 points. Will Davison separates that pair.
The race weekend will conclude with a further two 100km races on Sunday, to be televised on Seven Two from 11am AEST.