SYDNEY, New South Wales, Australia — Recap by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — V8 Supercars photo —
He may already be the champion-elect, but Jamie Whincup is leaving no doubt that he’s the most deserving of the V8 Supercars championship trophy.
Whincup muscled around Supercheap Auto driver Tim Slade with twelve laps to go in the first 125 km race of the Sydney NRMA 500 at Homebush Street Circuit and drove away from all challengers, dominating the final third of the race en route to a 3.1 second triumph — his 13th victory of the 2014 season and 88th career V8SC win.
The Red Bull Racing Australia pilot and six-time champion’s move denied Slade a chance at his first career V8SC race win, but Whincup simply saw it as another day at the office, doing exactly what he needed to do.
“Good times, there was plenty of pride on the line today,” Whincup said on the podium. “We want to round off the year as well as we possibly can, so a perfect start with a win in race one.”
He did however, give his Supercheap Auto rival credit for their frantic battle for the lead late in the going.
“Had a great battle with Timmy there. He got us in the pits — there was a bit of confusion with the Safety Car and I was probably overcautious. I was thinking it was doing the wrong thing and I was trying to help it out but really should have just concentrated on my own job and should have just passed it. But anyways, got leapfrogged and had a great battle and that’s what it’s all about.”
Slade was equal parts thrilled and heartbroken after coming so close to his first victory but notching one of his best career performances on the streets of Sydney Olympic Park. The Holden pilot held on to a season-best second place result at the finish.
“I think we’ve only had a couple of thirds [until today],” Slade said after a positive result. “It was the lowest of lows through the middle part of the year and then the Gold Coast was a good result for us. The car’s been really speedy all weekend and I though we were on there after our pit stop — the car was pretty strong, but I don’t know what Jamie was doing though cause once he got by he shot off.”
“Just struggled a bit there on the last restart but a massive thanks to all my boys for getting me in that position in the first place. It was really good strategy.
Whincup actually grabbed the lead on the start from polesitter Will Davison as Jack Perkins went spinning before the field ever reached turn one, but lost the top spot to Slade when he came down the pit lane just as a caution flag flew for a safety car period. The yellow was sparked by after the Ford of Mark Winterbottom stuffed it into the tire barrier at turn one.
Despite the shuffling of the field from laps 5 to 12 during the pit cycle, the strong cars from qualifying managed to work their way back to the front by the time the race resumed at lap 14, with Slade, Whincup and David Reynolds the top three.
Whincup would make a hefty challenge for the lead in the turns nine and ten complex, but Slade would hang on until a second caution period — coming right at the halfway point — slowed the pace when Scott Pye and Todd Kelly made contact at the exit of turn one after Kelly smacked the barriers. Both of those cars sustained heavy damage and were unable to continue.
From there, the rest of the sprint went clean and green, setting up a restart on lap 23 and Whincup’s race winning pass on lap 26.
David Reynolds returned to the podium with a gutsy third place drive and Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin came home fourth despite contact with James Courtney in the final corner that relegated him to a 11th-place finish. Rick Kelly capped off the top five.
Shane van Gisbergen finished sixth, followed by David Wall, Fabian Coulthard, Jason Bright and Garth Tander.
Polesitter Will Davison had a power steering issue with 11 laps to go and had to retire from the race after running in the top ten for most of the event.
Marcos Ambrose finished 20th in his return to V8 Supercars competiton, citing a problem with his window net as one of the reasons he had trouble moving forward in the field.
“I was trying to be a good boy out there — I was finding my way around with Russell [Ingall] and we had a bit of a battle there, but the biggest issue was my window net kept falling down so I had to keep putting that up during the race,” Ambrose explained in the paddock. “I had my hands full there just trying to understand everything and just getting out those new car gremlins and all that but we’ll pick it up here, probably tomorrow, and see if we can’t do a little bit more in that longer race.”
Race 37, the penultimate race of the 2014 V8 Supercars Championship, goes green at 4:50 p.m. local time.